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Mar

New Penalties Proposed for Distracted Driving Tickets

 

Headlines proclaiming distracted driving to be the greatest threat since drunk driving on Ontario’s roads are prompting calls for new penalties, including demerit points. Traffic ticket paralegals expect to see a flurry of traffic tickets issued in response to an ongoing public relations effort by the Ontario Provincial Police to discourage motorists from talking on cellphones while driving without using a hands-free device.

 

Fines for distracted driving in Ontario were recently hiked to a minimum of $225 plus a $55 surcharge, for a total of $280. An additional risk for drivers who allegedly endanger others while talking on a cellphone is a charge of careless driving which carries 6 demerit points and the possibility of a jail sentence.

 

Transportation Minister Glen Murray is jumping on the publicity bandwagon, making headlines of his own by calling for new legislation that would double the maximum penalty for distracted driving to $1,000 (excluding surcharges) while assessing three demerit points for the offense.

 

For many motorists, the risk of demerit points outweighs the possibility of a fine. Demerit points stay on your driving record for two years. In addition to the potential impact that demerit points have on the loss of driving privileges, they usually result in an increase in insurance premiums. Over time, that added cost is likely to be more substantial than the fine. Consultation with a traffic ticket paralegal is always prudent when demerit points might be assessed.

 

Murray’s proposed legislation would encourage additional traffic tickets to be issued to drivers who fail to leave sufficient space when passing bicyclists. Drivers who overtake bicyclists would need to leave a gap of at least one meter between their vehicle and the bicycle. How practical that proposal would prove to be, given the ability of a bicyclist to close that gap by moving closer to the vehicle despite a driver’s good intentions, is an unresolved question.

 

Murray’s ambitious proposal would also increase the fine and add an additional demerit point for drivers who open their vehicle door in the path of an oncoming bicyclist, causing the bicycle to collide with the door. In addition, Murray’s law would require drivers to yield the entire roadway to pedestrians who occupy school crossings and pedestrian crossovers.

 

Finally, Murray’s proposed law would address impaired driving offenses by requiring intensive alcohol education, treatment and monitoring programs for repeat offenders. Even a first impaired driving charge carries the kind of serious consequences that motorists will want to minimize or avoid with the help of a traffic ticket paralegal.

 



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