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Ontario’s Durham police running distracted driving enforcement campaign to coincide with Bill 31 changes


September 1, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) in southern Ontario said on Tuesday it will be running a distracted driving enforcement campaign for the next three days to coincide with changes in provincial legislation that come into effect today.

Bill 31 amends the Highway Traffic Act to establish a fine range of $300 to $1,000 for distracted driving

Bill 31, the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), amends the Highway Traffic Act to establish a fine range of $300 to $1,000 for distracted driving and a set fine of $490 and three demerit points upon conviction, with a minimum 30-day suspension for novice drivers. The previous penalty was a $60-$500 fine.

The DRPS said in a press release that officers will be out in all divisions to raise awareness of the changes and will partner with the Ontario Provincial Police during the enforcement and education campaign. The police service added that its East Division ran a “successful” campaign recently, issuing a total of 42 provincial offence notices and 24 cautions, including tickets for distracted driving and seatbelt infractions.

Related: IBAO, IBC commend Ontario government for increasing distracted driving fines

Among other changes, the act:

• Increases the threshold for reporting a property damage collision from $1,000 to $2,000 in combined damage;

• Creates a new one-metre minimum “buffer zone” when passing a cyclist. The set fine is $85, but that increases to $150 in community safety zones. Two demerit points are applied upon conviction;

• Requires motorists to slow down and move over (if safe to do so) for tow trucks at the side of the road, in addition to emergency service vehicles. The set fine is $400;

• Establishes an $85 fine for bicyclists who do not comply with night-time lighting requirements; and

• Adds road shoulders to unsafe lane change clauses, with a set fine of $85 ($150 in community safety zones).

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

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, drivers must also yield the whole roadway to pedestrians at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said in a statement. Next spring, it is expected that municipalities will have enhanced ability to charge out-of-province individuals caught by red light cameras. By the fall, it is expected that new penalties for drug-impaired driving will mirror penalties for alcohol-impaired driving. It is also expected that remedial measures and ignition interlock requirements to any accumulation of alcohol/drug impaired driving will be extended. [click image below to enlarge]

The act also requires motorists to slow down and move over (if safe to do so) for tow trucks at the side of the road, in addition to emergency service vehicles. The set fine is $400

By Spring 2017, it is expected there will be an expansion of licence plate denial for drivers who do not pay Provincial Offences Act fines for offences such as speeding, improper lane changes, illegal turns, driving without insurance and careless driving. The ministry also expects to extend the Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program to repeat offenders.

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

In June, both the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) and the Insurance Bureau of Canada “applauded” the passage of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act because it raises fines for distracted driving. “Brokers would like to see the fines become a motivator of compliance and result in safer roads and drivers across Ontario,” IBAO president Michael Brattman said at the time.

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,” said Ralph Palumbo, vice president, Ontario, IBC, in a media release. “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,” he said. “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.”