Distracted Driving: Ottawa Lawyers Clear the Air

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Your Local Ottawa Lawyers Want You to Know the Facts-And Drive Safely!

Nothing should be more important to you than your safety, and the safety of your family or friends. And because the Government of Ontario agrees with that sentiment, tougher laws have been passed regarding “distracted driving,” what is and isn’t acceptable, and the penalties that can be applied to drivers of different licence classes. In the interest of awareness, your local Ottawa lawyers want to make sure that you’re as familiar with the new laws as we are. Here’s a practical guide to the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act’s section on Distracted Driving:

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving includes talking, texting, typing, dialing, or otherwise using your hands to operate or manipulate any device that isn’t directly integral to the process of driving. This includes cell phones and tablets, GPS devices, media players, laptops, and anything else that would divide your attention between itself and road safety. It is illegal to operate any such device or view any display screen unrelated to driving while your vehicle is on, and for good reason-using such devices has been shown to increase the risk of injury or death through motor vehicle accidents.

The Dos and Don’ts

So how do you make sure you’re following the law properly? Your Ottawa lawyers are here to make sure you are armed with the knowledge to make informed choices. We’ll start with the obvious: there is an exception for making 911 calls during an emergency, but for safety reasons, you should pull over as soon as you are able, and inform the person on the other end that you are driving.

For making and receiving phone calls, your device (whether the phone itself or a hands-free Bluetooth accessory) must be mounted or secured properly, and must be able to operate hands-free. This includes voice-dialing. You are allowed to activate or deactivate the device by hand, but manually dialling, texting, or other uses are not allowed. If you must perform such a function, either park your vehicle, or have a passenger do it for you.

Both GPS devices and portable media players must be programmed before you begin driving, i.e. inputting your destination address or selecting a playlist. GPS devices must be securely mounted. Display screens that contain pertinent information to the task of driving are allowed.

The Penalties

Drivers in the Graduated Licensing program (i.e. G1, G2) will be penalized in an escalating fashion. The first infraction will carry a 30-day suspension, the second a 60-day suspension, and the third will result in having their licence cancelled, along with immediate removal from the Graduated Licensing program.

Fully-licenced drivers and hybrid drivers (those carrying one full-class licence and one novice licence) will be subject to fines up to $1000, with three demerit points applied to their record. If someone is endangered as a result of distracted driving, these penalties are doubled, and a possible two-year suspension is added, as well as a jail term depending on the severity of the offence.

If you have any additional questions about the new laws, contact your Ottawa lawyers today, or read the Ministry of Transportation’s guidelines.