Stiffer penalties for distracted driving coming into effect in 2019

Christina Succi, CTV Ottawa

The new year will bring new changes to distracted driving laws.

As of Jan. 1, drivers will face much stiffer penalties and higher fines for distracted driving.

A first distracted driving conviction could mean a fine up to $1,000, three demerit points and a 3-day suspension of their driver's license. A second conviction will result in a fine of up to $2,000, six demerit points and a 7-day suspension. Any further convictions within 5 years will mean a fine of $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day suspension.

"In Ottawa itself, distracted driving is a factor in 40 per cent of the collisions," said Constable Amy Gagnon of the Ottawa Police. "Distracted driving is surpassing impaired driving when it comes to collisions with injuries." Gagnon says Ottawa Police are determined to send a strong message to those taking risks on the road. "Driving requires your attention not just be on the road but the vehicle and vehicles around you," said Gagnon. "You have pedestrians and you have cyclists, you have a lot going on."

Distracted driving means anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road, including applying make-up, shaving, or eating. "If you're peeling off a wrapper, or you're using a spoon, your hands aren't even on the steering wheel anymore," said Gagnon. "It can wait, nothing is worth your safety or the safety of those around you."

For novice drivers, including G1, G2, M1, OR M2 licenses, the penalties are a little different.

Instead drivers will face a 30-day suspension for a first conviction and a 90-day suspension for a second conviction. There will be no demerit points but the fines will remain the same.

A third conviction will result in the driver having their license cancelled and they will be removed from the Graduated Licensing System.

The new fines are part of legislation passed in 2017 that also increases penalties for drug and alcohol impaired driving.