New penal­ties should prompt change in driv­ing habits, CAA says

The Delhi News-Record - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY RICH­MOND

Tough new penal­ties for dis­tracted driv­ing, such as tex­ting and call­ing on cell­phones, came into ef­fect Jan 1.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to change your habits, and make sure you are fo­cus­ing on driv­ing,” said El­liott Sil­ver­stein, gov­ern­ment re­la­tions man­ager of the Cana­dian Automobile As­so­ci­a­tion in South Cen­tral On­tario.

From new li­cence sus­pen­sions and de­merit points to in­creased fines, us­ing hand­held de­vices while driv­ing now has deeper and longert­erm im­pacts on driv­ers, he said.

“It could have an im­pact on your abil­ity to work and to get low in­sur­ance rates. It could af­fect your life down the road.”

As of Jan. 1, driv­ers caught us­ing their cell phones or other hand­held de­vices will be fined up to $1,000, get three de­merit points and lose their li­cence for three days. The min­i­mum fine for that first of­fence, if set­tled out of court, will rise to $615 from $490.

Driv­ers with a sec­ond of­fence in five years will be fined up to $2,000, get six de­merit points and lose their li­cence for six days.

Driv­ers with more than two of­fences within five years will be fined up to $3,000, get six de­merit points and lose and their li­cence for 30 days.

Novice driv­ers caught tex­ting, call­ing or oth­er­wise us­ing their hand­held de­vices will face the same fines as other driv­ers, but won’t lose de­merit points.

How­ever, they’ll get a 30-day li­cence sus­pen­sion on a first of­fence, 90-day sus­pen­sion for a sec­ond con­vic­tion and the can­cel­la­tion of their li­cence and re­moval from the grad­u­ated li­cens­ing sys­tem on a third con­vic­tion.

The new rules catch up to the con­tin­ued in­va­sion of tech­nol­ogy into modern life, and should act as a greater de­ter­rent to driv­ers who think they can han­dle that tech­nol­ogy while on the roads, Sil­ver­stein said.

Im­paired driv­ing in­ci­dents spike at night and on week­ends, but the use of hand­held de­vices to text, call, look at maps or choose mu­sic hap­pens all the time, he said.

“This is hap­pen­ing in morn­ing and af­ter­noon rush hours, night time, day­time, with young and old driv­ers. It’s a sys­temic is­sue.”

In 2013 in On­tario, one per­son was in­jured in a dis­tracted driv­ing col­li­sion ev­ery half hour, ac­cord­ing to provin­cial gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics.

A driver us­ing a phone was four times more likely to crash, the prov­ince said.

The penal­ties for dis­tracted driv­ing have been in­creas­ing grad­u­ally dur­ing the years, but some driv­ers prob­a­bly felt the pre­vi­ous fines were sim­ply a cost of do­ing busi­ness, Sil­ver­stein said.

The in­creased penal­ties should make peo­ple think twice about us­ing their hand­held tech­nol­ogy, he said.

Dis­tracted driv­ing deals pri­mar­ily with the use of hand­held tech­nol­ogy, Sil­ver­stein said.

Eat­ing, groom­ing or sim­i­lar be­haviours while at the wheel could be sub­ject to a care­less driv­ing charge, he said.

Care­less driv­ing con­vic­tions can re­sult in fines, de­merit points, jail terms and li­cence sus­pen­sions of up to two years.

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