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Posted: Jun 02, 2015 10:32 AM ET
CBC News, Toronto
Ontario unanimously passed legislation Tuesday increasing penalties for drivers who text or use a handheld phone while on the road, and who open their door into the path of a cyclist.
The update to the Highway Traffic Act also imposes a one-metre distance rule between motor vehicles and bicycles — "where practicable" — and will force drivers to wait until pedestrians completely cross the road at school crossings.
Using handheld electronic devices while driving has been outlawed in Ontario since 2009, except for 911 emergency calls.
Fines for distracted drivers will increase from the old range of $60 to $500 to between $300 to $1,000, plus three demerit points.
"If they do it, and they're caught doing it, there will be consequences," said Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. "But if they're going to do it, they have to understand how dangerous it is, how they're putting themselves, the passengers in their car, pedestrians and cyclists, at really, really horrific risk."
A 2014 survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found more than one-third of licensed Ontario students in Grades 10 to 12 admitted to having texted while driving at least once in the previous year.
"I think it's really important for those who are just starting to drive to recognize this is horribly dangerous," said Del Duca. "It's not worth it."
The bill also requires that drivers wait until pedestrians completely cross the road at school crossings and at crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights, and not yield just half the roadway as required under the old law. Municipalities will be allowed to install more pedestrian crossing devices on low-speed and low-volume roads.
Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League applauded the government's efforts to make the roads safer for everyone.
"People will be better able to understand that we want safe, focused drivers that protect both cyclists and pedestrians, and that there are obligations on those parties as well," he said.
Drivers impaired by drugs will face the same penalties as drivers impaired by alcohol, with escalating roadside suspensions of three to 90 days. Vehicles could be impounded for seven days and offenders could be required to install an ignition interlock device to prevent them from driving while impaired.
Government statistics show over 45 per cent of drivers killed in Ontario were found to have drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol in their system.
The updated law also clarifies the mandatory and discretionary requirements by doctors to report unfit drivers, and allows for reporting by other, qualified medical professionals. People with a medical suspension will be allowed to retain their driver's licence card for identification purposes and for when they are eligible to drive again.
March 1, 2014
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says drivers talking on the phone or texting now cause more deaths on Ontario roads than drunk drivers.
Fines for distracted driving are set to nearly double next month, but you can’t blame the government for this one.
The decision to increase the fine for driving while using a hand-held device — such as a cellphone or MP3 player — to $280 from $155 starting March 18 comes courtesy of Annemarie Bonkalo, chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
The new penalty includes a $225 fine, plus a $50 victim surcharge and $5 for court costs. Under the Highway Traffic Act, Bonkalo could have increased the fine to as much as $500.
Bonkalo’s executive assistant, Jane Warwick, said the chief justice chose to up the penalty “in light of the significant public interest in encouraging driver safety.”
There were more traffic fatalities due to distracted driving than drunk driving last year in Ontario Provincial Police jurisdiction, which includes highways. In 2013, distracted driving claimed 78 lives, versus 57 for impaired driving and 44 for speed-related fatalities.
The OPP laid 19,000 distracted driving charges in 2013, compared to 16,000 in 2012.
March 13, 2012
For the first time in 15 years, Ontario is increasing driver and vehicle licence fees to ensure provincial roads and bridges remain safe and in good repair for future generations.
While costs of maintaining roads, bridges and highways have risen over time, fees have not, so in keeping with the recommendations of the Drummond Commission, the government is moving forward with modest and gradual increases to:
The revenue generated from the fees will help support the maintenance of provincial roads, highways and bridges. Even with the increases, Ontario's passenger vehicle licence fees will remain lower than many other provinces in Canada.
The government will not be moving ahead with the recommendation to charge parking fees at GO Transit parking lots.
The McGuinty government is committed to eliminating the deficit and creating jobs, while strengthening Ontario's transportation infrastructure.
"Our government is making thoughtful choices to eliminate the deficit and keep Ontario's economy on track, while making sure our roads and bridges remain in good repair. By increasing some fees for the first time in almost 15 years, we are making the choice to keep Ontario's families safe when they are on the road."
– Bob Chiarelli
Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure