Driving is a complicated task that requires both physical and mental focus. Your own safety, as well as that of other drivers and pedestrians, depends on you maintaining your concentration when you are behind the wheel. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chance of an accident – so don’t let a moment of inattention lead to serious consequences.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is the operation of any motor vehicle while the driver’s attention is divided.
- Mind off the road. It’s almost impossible for the human brain to do two things simultaneously. That means that if you are chatting on the phone, singing along to loud music, eating, or trying to reprogram your GPS, you’re not giving the road your full attention.
- Eyes off the road. If you’re glancing at your phone to see who just sent you a text or which app just sent you a notification, then you’re not able to see the critical activity in front of your moving vehicle. At just 50 km/h, you’ll move forward the distance from home plate to first base every second – so even a glance away from the road can mean circumstances in front of you have changed.
- Hands off the wheel. If you’re busy unwrapping food, taking off your jacket, or anything else that requires you to let go of the wheel, then you can’t always react quickly enough to respond to a dangerous situation.
What are the penalties for distracted driving in Ontario?
The fines in Ontario are the steepest of all the provinces in Canada. It’s actually illegal to be holding a mobile phone while driving, and driving while texting is an immediate offence. It’s also expressly illegal to use any other handheld gaming or video device or program a GPS except by voice, even if you are stopped at a red light. Other forms of distraction might also get you pulled over and fined, especially if distraction is causing you to drive erratically.
- $615 to $1000, 3 demerit points, and a 3-day suspension for a first offense;
- $615 to $2000, 6 demerit points, and a 7-day suspension for a second offense;
- $615 to $3000, 6 demerit points, and a 30-day suspension for additional offenses.
Don’t forget about the additional cost of potential insurance impacts, too. Some companies put distracted driving in the same category as impaired driving, and will raise your rates accordingly if you get a ticket.
What should I do if I spot distracted driving?
If you see another driver on the road acting unpredictably and suspect distracted driving, then keep in mind that your own safety and the safety of everyone else on the roadway is the most important thing to consider.
- Give the distracted driver plenty of space and proceed with caution.
- Pull over if it is safe to do so.
- Honk your horn to get their attention if they are veering out of their lane.
- Call 911 if you feel there is an immediate threat to public safety.
- Attempt to use your own phone to capture a photo or record a video.
- Confront the other driver or try to engage with them.
- Take your hands off your wheel in an attempt to wave at them or flag them down.
Distracted drivers can be reported to police in Ontario if they are putting other drivers or pedestrians in danger. However, the safety of your own vehicle and others is most important. Don’t take unnecessary risks and become a distracted driver yourself. Instead, always try to act with caution, remain calm and focus, and diffuse the situation as best as possible.
Earn your Road SMARTS
If you would like to get more involved in road safety, take the #RoadSMARTS pledge. By taking the Road SMARTS Pledge, you Support Making All Road Travel Safe, which can help improve road safety for everyone. When road behaviours change, accidents are reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/road-smarts.