Tougher penalties for bad driving habits
With children returning to school now in September, the province brings into force a new schedule of penalties for drivers with bad habits.
As of Sept. 1, the fines get more expensive for distracted driving, putting cyclists at risk on the road, and risky business involving either school buses or tow trucks. It’s all part of a provincial government campaign against poor driving practices.
Driving while distracted by chatting on the cellphone or doing other things that take attention away from the traffic ahead will mean a mandatory fine now of $490 with three demerit points upon conviction. Novice drivers caught in the act of driving while distracted will also have at least a 30day suspension of their licence, depending on the circumstances, with longer suspension periods for second and third convictions while their novice licence period is in effect.
Some drivers amuse themselves by passing as close to cyclists as they can get away with, a practice known as «dooring» and that will cost them more if they are caught doing it by police or reported by a cyclist. « Dooring a cyclist» also refers to a situation where a cyclist passing by a parked vehicle runs into a door that was opened without the vehicle occupant first checking for any hazards. A new provincial regulation requires at least one-metre distance kept between a vehicle and a cyclist during a passing maneuver or else the driver is subject to a $110 fine plus two demerit points. The same penalty may also apply to a person in a parked car or truck who ends up «dooring a cyclist» by accident.
Cyclists are also responsible for making sure they either stay within a designated cycling lane or on the shoulder of the road or highway to allow faster vehicles easier passage past them. They are also required to make sure their bikes have the proper working lights and reflectors or else face a $110 fine.
Drivers trying to pass a tow truck stopped along the roadside must leave a safe passing distance between their vehicle and the truck. Doing a fast and close swing around the tow truck is not allowed because it creates a risky situation for the tow truck driver and anyone involved with the vehicle in distress. Failure to do a safe bypass of a tow truck will mean a $490 fine.
The provincial government is also limiting use of the colour school-bus yellow. As of Sept. 1 only actual school buses used to transport students can be chrome yellow in colour. No other buses in Ontario can be chrome yellow, which means school buses retired from active service and sold have to be repainted.
Drivers who put students at risk because they ignore the traffic rules regarding school buses are facing fines up to $2000 and six demerit points for a first conviction. All motorists must stop for a school bus when its warning lights are flashing and the stop sign and bar are extended to signal that students are either boarding or disembarking.