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Jun 4, 2015

The new distracted driving bill - what you need to know

by: Maria Capulong

As you may have heard, Ontario just passed Bill 31 which introduces several updates to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and is scheduled to take effect this Fall. The goal is to address concerns for safety on public Ontario roads with a particular emphasis on penalizing distracted drivers. 

These changes include (among others): 

  • If you are caught with an electronic handheld device while behind the wheel, you could fax a maximum fine of $1,000.00 and three demerit points.
  • Cyclists could face a fine of up to $500.00 for not having the proper reflectors or required bicycle lights.
  • If you are thinking of painting your vehicle chrome yellow, you can’t as the Bill clarifies that only school buses can be painted chrome yellow.
  • Motorists must share the roads with cyclists as the Bill requires that all drivers give cyclists one-metre berth when passing at all times.
  • Cycling is encouraged with this new Bill as cyclists will be allowed on paved shoulders of provincial highways.
  • Cities will be enabled to install contraflow lanes, which are bicycle lanes on one-way streets that run counter to vehicle traffic.
  • Ontario follows the lead of other provinces by enacting the same penalties for drivers who are drug-impaired as they do for drivers that are alcohol-impaired, this includes licence suspensions and mandated addictions counselling.
  • Dooring: striking a cyclist with your car door can result in a maximum fine of $1,000.00 and three demerit points.
  • Permitted transport trucks travelling on the highway will double in length.
  • You will be required to slow down and try to give a full lane’s berth when approaching a tow truck with flashing lights. This is the same protection which is currently afforded to emergency responder vehicles.
  • Allow medical professionals to clarify the types of medical conditions that may affect a person’s ability to drive.
  • Driver’s licences that have been revoked for medical reasons (such as persons with epilepsy) may still be able to keep their licence as a valid identification only.
  • Drivers will be required to wait at a crosswalk until no one is in it before nudging forward.
  • Attaching a skateboard to the back of a moving vehicle is now explicitly forbidden. Prior to this change, the law only banned sleds and bicycles. The law is broadened to include skateboards, inline skates and any other type of conveyance.

The hope is that these changes will help prevent unsafe activity in the public roads of Ontario. These changes will come in tandem with an educational campaign from the Ministry of Transportation to bring awareness to the fact that distracted driving is quickly becoming the number one cause for road fatalities.

For more information on what causes distracted driving and how to avoid it, see our recent infographic.


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