Canadian Underwriter

Ontario MPP says roadside suspensions for distracted driving “might be reasonable”

March 21, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Roadside suspensions for motorists caught using wireless devices while driving “might be reasonable,” an Ontario government MPP told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

Ontario already has “strong rules on the books” against distracted driving, Arthur Potts, parliamentary assistant to Ontario transportation minister Kathryn McGarry, told Canadian Underwriter in an interview Tuesday. Potts added would “like to explore further” the possibility of roadside suspensions with provincial government staff.

“It might be reasonable to expand” penalties against distracted driving to roadside suspensions, said Potts, Liberal member of provincial parliament for the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York. 

Ontario law prohibits drivers from operating hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while driving, and from looking at display screens not related to driving. The maximum fine for distracted driving in Ontario is $1,000.

When recent amendments to the Highway Traffic Act take effect, first-time offenders will face a 30-day license suspension, but not at the time they are getting the ticket. These amendments were brought in with Bill 174, an omnibus bill intended mainly to address the legalization of marijuana that was signed into law this past December.

Bill 174 will provide maximum fines for distracted driving of $2,000 for a second offence and $3,000 for a third offence. The $1,000 maximum fine for a first offence will not change. But first-time offenders will face a three-day license suspension, second-time offenders will face a seven-day license suspension, and third-time offenders will face a 30-day suspension.

Distracted driving is one reason auto insurance premiums are going up, Aviva Canada’s immediate past CEO Greg Somerville told Canadian Underwriter earlier.

Willie Handler, principal of Willie Handler and Associates, a former public servant who is familiar with the Ontario auto insurance file, is calling for the province to impose a roadside suspension and vehicle impoundment when a motorist are caught driving while distracted.

But the Ontario government does not have that in place and the Liberals “weren’t contemplating roadside suspensions,” said Potts.