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New Distracted Driving Laws To Take Effect Next Week

Police sources have confirmed that Canada’s new driving laws, which received royal assent earlier this year, will officially take effect in every province on Feb. 1, 2020.

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 $3,000 fine
  • Second offence: 7 days suspension and $6,000 fine
  • Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $8,000 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 Canada 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.

Does eating while driving count as distracted driving?

While eating is not a specific part of most province’s distracted driving law, some regions of Canada—such as Ontario—have enacted stricter penalties for snacking while in the driver’s seat. In most provinces, instances of eating while driving will be judged on a case-by-case basis, which means you could be ticketed up to $1,000 if it’s deemed that the act of eating behind the wheel impaired your driving.

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.

The government have announced that they will no longer to let people off with 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 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 Police of Canada will be closely monitoring the roads moving forward to crackdown on the distracted driving problem.

 What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving occurs when a driver’s attention wanders away from the act of driving. Every province has its own set of rules but there are national bans in place for using cellphones or hand-held devices while driving and, if a person is caught breaking this law, it could result in penalties.

According to the National Safety Council, a distracted driver, even if looking away from the road for just a few seconds, could fail to see 50% of their driving environment. Even if drivers are looking while distracted, it’s possible they might not be seeing what’s happening. There are an increasing number of Canadians who are engaging on social media while driving, which is becoming a serious road safety issue today.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has developed the definition of distracted driving as: “The diversion of attention from driving, as a result of the driver focusing on a non-driving object, activity, event, or person.”

Distracted driving reduces a driver’s awareness, decision-making, and performance which can lead to driver-error and accidents. As distracted driving becomes more prominent, it’s in your best interest to avoid factors causing distraction behind the wheel, while at the same time, being mindful of drivers around you who may or may not be distracted themselves.

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