Distracted driving penalties increase…

Maximum $1K fine and three demerit points for Ontario drivers who text, email or talk on handheld phone

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.”

Fines for opening a door into the path of a cyclist will increase to the same amounts as for distracted driving, and motorists must leave a one-metre distance when passing bicycles. Cyclists will be allowed to use the paved shoulders on non-400 series provincial highways.

“We call it sharing the road for a reason,” said Del Duca. “Cyclists have a responsibility. So do motorists.”

Fines will increase from $20 to between $60 and $500 for bicyclists who do not use a light and reflectors or reflective material.

June 02 2015 Canadian Press

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