Ontario distracted driving fine near $500

Fines for Ontario drivers who plead guilty to distracted driving now begin at $490, with three demerit points.

Steven Del Duca of OntarioTechnically, the distracted driving fines that can be imposed by a judge range from $300 to $1,000 under a law that took effect Sept. 1. The set $490 fine is for drivers who plead guilty. (It includes victim fine surcharges and court fees.) Those who are convicted also receive the points vs. the driver’s license. Most distracted drivers in Ontario will receive that punishment.

The update to the Highway Traffic Act — approved by lawmakers June 2 — is the work of transportation minister Steven Del Duca, left, who points to the “really, really horrific risk” of distracted driving.

It is illegal to use handheld communications devices to talk, text or otherwise use the Internet while driving in Ontario.

Most fines previously ranged from $280 to $500, but no points. That was set by an increase in March 2014, but public sentiment continued to build against use of handheld cell phones by those behind the wheel.

Demerit points are now common across Canada. Three points is near the low end of the scale, with 9 to 14 points resulting in a possible suspension. Fifteen points results in an automatic suspension.

“Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America and this new legislation is intended to keep it that way,” Del Duca said of the latest hike and addition of points.

The new punishments began after another public education campaign. The amendments included other roadway safety measures.

Young and novice drivers are subject to a minimum 30-day license suspension for any violation, including the distracted driving. Novice drivers are not subject to demerits, however.

The Manitoba government on June 4 unveiled a new 5-demerit penalty vs. the driver’s license. The existing $200 fine remains the same. The new penalty went into effect July 1.

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