Canadian Underwriter

IBAO, IBC commend Ontario government for increasing distracted driving fines

June 5, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) announced they are “applauding” the passage Tuesday of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act because it raises fines for distracted driving.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario supports Bill 31, which raises fines for distracted driving “Collisions caused by distracted driving are preventable,” IBAO president Michael Brattman stated in a release on Thursday. “We hope that with Tuesday’s announcement, all drivers across the province will be reminded of the serious dangers involved with such actions. Brokers would like to see the fines become a motivator of compliance and result in safer roads and drivers across Ontario.”

Bill 31, the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, changes the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) to increase the maximum fine for distracted driving to $1,000 (from $500) and the minimum fine to $300, from $60. It also introduces demerit points for those convicted of distracted driving.

IBC applauded the government on the increased fines and introduction of demerit points “as it continues to raise awareness about how important it is to put down the phone before getting behind the wheel of a car. Distractions are a major factor in many collisions, and the passing of this Act will help make sure people think twice about picking up their smartphones while driving,” said Ralph Palumbo, vice president, Ontario, IBC, in a media release earlier this week. “We will continue to work with governments and consumers to show that the practice of texting or using a phone while driving is socially unacceptable and inherently dangerous.”

Related: Ontario bill providing for license suspensions for drug-impaired drivers ready for third reading

Bill 31 also makes a number of other changes designed to improve traffic safety and fight fraud.

For example, it changes the section of the HTA dealing with vehicles classified as irreparable, rebuilt or salvage.

The right to make a submission on the classification of such vehicles is now limited to the person who held the vehicle portion of the permit at the time of the event that led to the vehicle’s classification and who continues to hold it.

This will “improve the Mandatory Vehicle Branding Program to prevent vehicle fraud and protect consumers who buy used vehicles,” Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca told the legislature during a debate on Bill 31 last year.

Related: Ontario increases penalties for drivers who text, email, talk on handheld phone

“Under this program, vehicles that have been written off because of a collision or a flood are branded by the (Ministry of Transportation) as either salvageable or irreparable,” Del Duca said at the time. “Vehicle owners can make a written appeal to challenge the accuracy of their vehicle’s brand. Currently, many requests are submitted by individuals who have knowingly purchased an irreparable or a salvage vehicle and appeal the brand based on fraudulent motives.”

So with Bill 31, “only the person who owned a vehicle at the time it was damaged and reported it to the ministry would be allowed to appeal its brand,” Del Duca said earlier. “This would prevent appeals by those looking to make a profit by illegally rebuilding vehicles or selling damaged vehicles to the unsuspecting public.”

Bill 31 also addresses impaired driving.

The province will “expand existing alcohol-impaired sanctions to drivers who are impaired by drugs,” Del Duca said during earlier debates.

Related: Ontario politicians send road safety bill to committee

The HTA will now include a section on short-term administrative licence suspensions for drug or drug and alcohol impairment. It will stipulate that a police officer can request that a driver surrender his or her licence if the driver is impaired by a drug or by a combination of a drug and alcohol.

“The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act would also be another step in strengthening the identification of medically unfit drivers,” Del Duca said earlier. “Ontario’s mandatory reporting program for physicians is a key method for identifying individuals of any age with a medical condition that may make it unsafe for them to drive. This bill would enable the Ministry of Transportation to accept reports from a broader range of qualified health care practitioners in the future, and it would assist in clarifying mandatory reporting requirements according to standards developed in co-operation with the medical community.”

Bill 31 will also require motorists to slow down and move into another lane when approaching a stopped tow truck with its amber lights flashing. Before Bill 31 was passed, this rule only applied to stopped emergency vehicles with red and/or blue lights flashing.

Bill 31 also requires motorists to give cyclists a metre of space, “as nearly as practical,” when passing, and to remain stopped at a pedestrian crossover or school crossing until the person crossing the street and the crossing guard are off the roadway (not just off the driver’s half of the roadway).

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