Distracted Drivers in Ontario

Distracted Drivers in Ontario

Distracted Driving in Ontario

While “multitasking” may be a prized skill in the workplace or home, it is definitely not encouraged on the road. When you’re driving, your focus should be on driving, because when it’s not, accidents happen. Since the year 2000, motor vehicle accidents in Ontario involving distracted driving have doubled. This statistic can be partly explained by the rise in popularity of cellphones, but phones aren’t the only reason why the number of these types of accidents has skyrocketed, and the Ontario government has acknowledged that in its recent distracted driving legislation. Under the provisions of the law, which took effect in 2019, penalties for distracted driving have been increased. Fines for first time offenders may range from $615 to $1,000, and the penalty can also include a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points. For repeat offenders, the potential fines and penalties are more severe: two-time offenders will face fines of up to $2,000, a seven-day licence suspension and six demerit points; those caught more than twice will pay fines of up to $3,000 and can lose their licence for thirty days. However, novice drivers can receive longer suspensions and may even face licence revocation. 


What Is Distracted Driving?

“Distracted driving” is the term used to describe the act of driving while engaging in other activities which distract the driver's attention away from the road. In Ontario, distracted driving laws apply to the use of hand-held devices and certain display screens. For example, when you’re driving – even if you happen to be stopped at a red light, or in traffic – it is illegal to:

  • use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial, with the exception of calling 911 in an emergency;
  • use a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console;
  • view display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video;
  • or program a GPS device, except by the use of voice command.

You are, however, allowed to use hands-free communications devices with an earpiece or Bluetooth, and you can view GPS display screens as long as they are securely mounted (or built in) to the car’s dashboard.


The Ontario law does not specifically prohibit other activities, but the RCMP site lists eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading a map, adjusting the radio, listening to very loud music, and talking to passengers as examples of things that may cause drivers to become distracted. The RCMP also considers driving with mental and/or physical fatigue as dangerous. Police may use their discretion to charge you with careless or dangerous driving if they think any of these factors are causing you to drive without due care and attention.


While law enforcement is obviously not going to enforce all instances of eating and drinking, for example, you should use common sense. Sipping from a cup of coffee with a lid is less distracting than attempting to eat a bowl of ramen – something a B.C. driver attempted to do. Other egregious examples of distracted driving include:

  • An Illinois driver who hit and killed a motorcyclist because she was painting her fingernails.
  • A bus driver reading a book while operating a city bus – in the snow.
  • A biker caught texting while operating a motorcycle on the highway.
  • Dozens of young drivers ticketed for taking selfies while driving.
  • A man seen reading a book and talking on a cellphone while driving on a freeway.

There are some simple ways to ensure that you will not will not drive while distracted. First, put the phone on airplane mode, so that you won’t be tempted to answer calls or texts. If you need to use the phone, pull off the road to do so. Finish eating and grooming before getting in the car. If you can’t, wait until you reach your destination, or pull into a rest stop. Don’t argue in the car. Make sure children are securely strapped into safety seats. Turn music down so that you can concentrate on the sights and sounds of the road. Don’t drive when you are tired, and refrain from daydreaming.


If You Are Injured By a Distracted Driver


Distracted driving can be as dangerous as drinking while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; distractions can compromise judgement and affect the ability to make the kinds of decisions necessary for driving safely. If it can be shown that an accident was caused by driving while distracted, the driver can be charged with careless or dangerous driving.  Drivers could be held liable for damages and medical expenses incurred in the accident, and could receive a two-year license suspension and possible jail time.


If you have been injured in an accident involving distracted driving, you should meet with a personal injury lawyer. In Ontario, most times an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is provided free of charge, and you can discuss the specifics of your case and learn more about your options. Contact a personal injury law firm today for more information.