Police sources have confirmed that Ontario's new driving laws, which received royal assent earlier this year, will officially take effect in the province on Jan. 1, 2019.
Drivers convicted of distracted driving under the new laws will be punished with a licence suspension, a hefty fine and demerit points. The severity of the punishment increases with the number of subsequent offences committed:
- First offence: 3 days suspension and $1,000 fine
- Second offence: 7 days suspension and $2,000 fine
- Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $3,000 fine and six demerit points
Police will not be able to seize driver's licences at roadside. They would have to get the approval of a judge in order to be able to suspend any driver's licences.
"It will not be a roadside suspension by a police officer, it will be conviction at court for an offence of distracted driving. Once you're convicted, whether it is through a guilty plea or trial, you will lose your licence for three, seven or 30 days," Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe said.
Distracted driving is no longer limited to just texting and making phone calls. The Government of Ontario has posted a list of activities that counts as distracted driving and it includes anything from simply holding an electronic device in one's hand to eating while behind the wheel. See the full list here.
There have also been cases where people have been convicted of distracted driving for seemingly harmless deeds such as wearing earphones or looking at a smart watch while driving. This could open up a few grey areas with regards to the new laws.
According to the government, distracted driving is anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road; however, some drivers could argue that such definition is subjective.
The OPP have announced that they will no longer let people off with a warning if they are caught distracted driving. This means guilty offenders will automatically be slapped with straight fines.
"The time for warnings is certainly gone," said OPP Sgt. David Rektor. "Warnings served a purpose at the initial stages when people were transitioning to this law, but this law has been in effect for a number of years now. There's no reason why somebody needs to be distracted."
The OPP will be closely monitoring the roads moving forward to crackdown on the distracted driving problem.