Distracted Driving in Ontario
We live in a world of unprecedented modern technology and gadgets. In the appropriate setting, they greatly enrich our lives. In others, they are dangerous distractions. We have all seen it. You pull up to a stop at a red traffic light, look over to your left and see the driver’s head buried in their phone, punching away on the screen.
Back in October 2009, the Ontario government enacted legislation which made it illegal to text, type, dial or email while driving unless the cellphone is being used “hands free”. In September 2015, fines for breaching this law were increased to $490-$1000 along with three demerit points. Despite the enactment of these laws, Ontarians continue to text and drive.
According to the Ontario Provincial Police, 2015 marked the third consecutive year in this province that distracted driving – in particular texting and talking on cell phones – was the leading cause of road deaths. In an effort to tackle this growing issue, the current Ontario government has pushed for even stiffer fines for drivers who are convicted of distracted driving. New legislation will introduce an escalating penalty system where the fines may range from $500 to $3000. In addition to these fines, drivers will have their licenses suspended for a period of time if they are convicted of the offence.
Driving is a deceptively complex and time-sensitive activity. It demands constant scanning of the roadway for risks including other vehicles, pedestrians, changing topography and obstacles that often appear out of nowhere at a moment’s notice. These risks place a premium on maintaining a clear view of the roadway at all times.
It goes without saying that texting and driving reduces observation and response time. Yet, many of us remain addicted to our cell phones even in the car. Having a cell phone near us while driving is enticement enough. As innocuous as it may seem to check your phone or send a quick text while waiting for a light to change, remember that this behaviour forms part of a larger habit that puts everyone’s well-being at risk.
Distracted driving endangers the safety of all motorists and pedestrians. It is time we set clear boundaries surrounding tech-use in our vehicles. If the itch to text is just too strong, consider taking the foolproof approach of turning your phone off and/or placing it out of reach before you start your vehicle.
For iPhone users, Apple has recently released an iOS update which allows your phone to automatically enter a “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. When this driving mode is active, your iPhone stays silent and the screen stays dark. If someone calls or texts, they receive an automatic reply letting them know that you are driving. This mode is designed to prevent drivers from engaging in distracted behaviour while they are on the road.
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