February 24, 2015 by Canadian Underwriter
An Ontario government bill proposing to raise distracted driving fines to a range of $300 to $1,000 – and to change the rules for rebranding damaged vehicles as either salvageable or irreparable – has been referred to committee.
Bill 31, the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), was referred Tuesday to the Ontario legislature¹s Standing Committee on General Government.
“Bill 31 includes important new measures to deal with drugged driving as well as stiffer penalties for distracted driving, which has become the number one killer on Ontario’s roads, as we hear from the OPP,” said Peggy Sattler, the New Democratic Party MPP for London West, at Queen’s Park Monday on second reading of Bill 31.
The omnibus bill would “improve the Mandatory Vehicle Branding Program to prevent vehicle fraud and protect consumers who buy used vehicles,”
Transportation Minister Steve Del Duca told the legislature last year when he tabled the bill for first reading.
“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.”
With Bill 31, the ruling Liberals propose to change the rules so that “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 last year.
“This would prevent appeals by those looking to make a profit by illegally rebuilding vehicles or selling damaged vehicles to the unsuspecting public.”
If passed into law, bill 31 would also increase the range of fines for distracted driving to $300 to $1,000 – from the current range of $60 to $500.
“It’s easier to hit someone when you’re distracted – either on a bicycle or a pedestrian,” Liberal MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti told the legislature Monday.
“It happens all the time in my riding and happens all throughout Ontario.
I’ve noticed, in my area of Scarborough Southwest, almost every weekend someone gets hit on the road, usually fatally. So this bill at least addresses and improves the conditions that presently exist outside on the roads.”
Paul Miller, NDP MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, also spoke Monday in favour of the bill.
“It should help to improve the safety on our roads,” Miller said. “It should help to reduce the needless loss of life on our roads, and we’re happy to support Bill 31.”
Another measure proposed in Bill 31 is a requirement for drivers to slow down and move into another lane when approaching a stopped tow truck with flashing amber lights.
Bill 31 also calls for the impoundment of a vehicle if a driver “contravenes an ignition interlock condition” on his or her licence under a conduct review.
It also stipulates that the Ministry of Transportation will not issue or validate permits for people with unpaid fines.
“Right now, if a motorist decides that they’re going to toss away the ticket for a traffic or parking offence and ignore the fine, the municipalities – and in my riding that would be the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville – are really left in the lurch,” Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark said. “They’ve got really no mechanism that’s available to them to get that driver and force them to pay up. So Bill 31 does address this by ensuring that any driver in default on the payment of the fine can’t renew their licence plate.”
If passed into law, Bill 31 would require drivers to give cyclists at least one metre of room when passing them.
“Something that I think is very serious in this bill is the one metre between a vehicle and a bicycle when a motor vehicle is passing a bicycle,” said Randy Pettapiece, PC MPP for Perth-Wellington. “It says at least one metre. I would suggest that for large transport trucks going by bicycles, especially out in the country, that are going at the speed limit, one metre isn’t enough because they can be sucked into these things. I think the government should rethink that one a little bit.”