Distracted driving fines in Ontario jump to $280

The fine for distracted driving is going up in Ontario, jumping to $280 from $155, staring on March 18.

'It's an ongoing problem and it is taking lives' say police

The fine for distracted driving in Ontario will almost double as of March 18, rising to $280 from $155. (CBC)

The fine for distracted driving in Ontario will soon nearly double.

As of March 18, driving with the display screen of a phone, computer, MP3 player or tablet computer visible to the driver will jump to $280 from $155. The total includes a $25 victim surcharge and $5 court costs.

Last week Ontario chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo signed a judicial order approving the new fines.

The fines will not apply to GPS screens.

A ticket for distracted driving in Ontario does not come with demerit points, although drivers could also face a dangerous driving charge, which includes six demerit points.

Toronto police traffic officer Const. Clint Stibbe spoke about the new fines on CBC radio's Metro Morning Tuesday. He said the new fines are a step in the right direction, because police don't believe enough drivers are getting the message about the dangers of driving while using an electronic device.

"We've seen a lack of compliance," said Stibbe, who adds he continues to see drivers using phones and other electronic devices while at the wheel. He's seen drivers texting with two hands while holding the steering wheel with their knees. 

"We're seen fatalities that are directly attributed to the use of a cellphone," said Stibbe. "It's an ongoing problem and it is taking lives."

Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon agrees, adding that it works with drinking and driving. His private member's bill would make distracted driving worth three points and raise fines to $500.

"This is a serious, serious community safety issue for me and I'm proposing it because it'll improve the safety of our community.

Balkissoon's community knows the consequences all too well. His bill is named after Ranjana Kanagasabapathy, who was killed last August when she was hit by a truck while boarding a bus. It is believed the driver was on a cellphone at the time of the crash.

"For the brothers, sisters, husband, son, they're all suffering and my mother is extremely sick because of this I could say easily," said Kandiah Kanarajah, Kanagasabapathy's brother-in-law.

With files from CBC's Linda Ward

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