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Tag Archive for: distracted driving


Eyes Up! Ontario’s New Distracted Driving Laws

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Welcome to 2019!  While the New Year is a wonderful time to reflect, organize, plan, appreciate and look forward with enthusiasm and gratuity, this year in Ontario it is also an important time to familiarize ourselves with the new laws for Distracted Driving.

Working in Ontario’s insurance industry, our role as Occupational Therapists is to help people recover from car accidents.  While this work is both rewarding and fulfilling, it is also fraught with heartache and loss as we meet and work with people who have endured so much, and sometimes “lost everything” with their accident.  We see loss of income, function, or hope.  Sometimes there is the corresponding death of a child, spouse, friend or family member. There is a loss of roles, purpose, and meaning.  Occasionally an accident causes poverty and loss of shelter, independence and a means of transportation.  Recovery is not easy, it always takes longer than people expect or want, and the insurance system is designed to challenge the client (oddly their “customer”) for what they want and need to get better.  Talk to anyone in the system and most (all?) say they just “want their old life back”.  It is important that we listen to them and their stories and do all we can to prevent ourselves from causing someone else’s loss, or from becoming a “client” ourselves.

Yet, despite all the ongoing education and media about how unsafe distracted driving is, I still see it daily.  I can typically count 3-5 people per day that I see driving and texting or texting at a stop light.  The easiest ones to spot are on the highways as you see them drifting lanes and quickly over-correcting.  I suppose all of these offenders believe “it won’t happen to me”…until it does.  Hopefully, these new laws will scare them straight, or they will be ticketed and stop this unsafe behavior before they hurt themselves or others.

So, what are the new distracted driving laws in Ontario (

Distracted driving is no longer limited to just texting and making phone calls. It also now includes anything from simply holding an electronic device in one’s hand to eating while behind the wheel.

  • Simply holding an electronic device in your hands (hand-held communication during driving is against the law)
  • Using a cellular phone to talk, text, check maps or switch playlists
  • Eating (there may not be a license suspension, but the RCMP warn you could be fined or given six demerits depending on the food)
  • Reading books or documents
  • Typing a destination into the GPS

What are the consequences:

  • First offence: 3 days suspension and $1,000 fine
  • Second offence: 7 days suspension and $2,000 fine
  • Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $3,000 fine and six demerit points

For Novice Drivers (G1, G2, M1 or M2 license) the rules are different and include:

  • First offence: 30 days suspension and $615-$1000 fine
  • Second offence: 90 days suspension and $615-$2000 fine
  • Three or more offences: Cancellation of your license, $615-$3,000 fine

So, what is allowed:

  • a hands-free device (e.g. Bluetooth) but only to turn it on and off
  • a mounted device (e.g. phone, GPS) as long as it is secure – not moving around while driving

What do you have to lose by being a Distracted Driver?  Maybe nothing, or maybe everything: your physical, mental or emotional function, your job, spouse, house, car, your independence and freedom, your pain-free “do what I want when I want” physical and mental abilities…or maybe you don’t lose those, you just cause the loss of those for others which might launch you into a lawsuit that takes years to resolve and threatens every asset you have and the livelihood of you or your family.  Or, maybe it just riddles you with guilt as you live every day with the knowledge that you killed or hurt someone.  And all for a text or a call?  Or to multi-purpose driving and eating a hamburger?  Sorry, but nothing is more important than the protection of the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our family, and others.


Distracted Driving Kills: Will Harsher Penalties Make a Difference?

The other day I was traveling on a major highway as I was heading to a shopping center.  I had five teenagers with me – my own four kids and a significant other.  We were in the middle lane and the mini-van in front of us was slowly drifting.  It would drift a bit right then correct, a bit left then correct.  Sometimes it would go slightly over the line, sometimes a lot.  Years ago I would have assumed that the person driving might have been drinking.  This time I said to my car full of teens “I bet this person is texting and driving – watch them”.  The teens acknowledged quickly that the car was definitely all over the place.  I decided to speed up and pass this vehicle (much safer for us to have her behind us than in front of us).  As we passed her, sure enough, this middle-aged looking woman was texting.  I honked and we all stared at her as we passed.  I hope she got the point.  And yes, sure, maybe she was texting a dying relative, telling a sick child she was “on her way” to get them from school, or solidifying the best business deal of her life…but, in the end, she was being selfish, insensitive and unsafe.  Not to mention was breaking the law.  If anything was more important in that moment then her need to drive her car safely then she needed to pull off the highway, deal with the issue and then continue on her way.

The benefit I have is that I work with people who may have been injured by their own “it won’t happen to me” mentality, or by others that have caused horrible accidents driving like this.  So, I drive with heightened awareness.  And people I am sorry, but it is pretty obvious what you are doing when your head is anywhere but forward while you are operating a vehicle.  I see several people a day texting or holding a phone to their ear while behind the wheel.  It is still COMMON.

I fully support these New Laws for Distracted Driving.  I also would support any opportunity to have a passenger in my car take a photo or video of a distracted driver to post online or to fire off to Crime Stoppers to deter this type of behavior.  I agree that “no text is worth a life” – even your own.



Scary Study on Texting and Driving

Results from an ongoing study on texting and driving by the Sudbury District Health Unit and Laurentian University have produced scary results, but researchers are optimistic these results put them closer to improving strategies to reduce this dangerous behaviour.  Research shows: “They admit to doing it, but they feel bad about doing it, they know it’s wrong and they don’t feel safe when someone else is texting and driving. Learning that information gives us a bit of leverage to empower passengers to stand up and say, ‘No, this is wrong,’ against their peers.”  Learn more about this research and the ongoing efforts to reduce texting and driving in the following article from the Sudbury Star.

The Sudbury Star:  Sudbury researchers target distracted driving


Pokémon GO – Yes or No?

It’s the newest and biggest craze in the digital world—Pokémon GO.  An app that lets you play a video game, but gets you off the couch and out of the house.  While there are health benefits to this new game, as discussed in the following from Forbes Magazine, there are dangers that must be taken into account.  We remind you that distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of automobile accidents and that pedestrian deaths are on the rise in our cities.  We encourage you to get out and reap the health benefits, but be cautious of your surroundings and NEVER play while driving.

Forbes:  Five Ways Pokémon GO Is Actually Good For You


Distracted Driving — Say “I Don’t”

Did you know that 40% of Acquired Brain Injuries are the result of an automobile accident?  And, that texting while driving is basically like driving with your eyes closed for 5 full seconds?  Distracted driving is a major cause of injury and fatalities on our roads.  What better way to celebrate Brain Injury Awareness month than to take the pledge today.  Say I Don’t to texting and driving by visiting created by the Ontario Brain Injury Association.


Just Say ” I Don’t” to Texting and Driving

Did you know that “texting while driving is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time.” (VA. Tech Transportation Institute)
Last month on the blog we discussed the dangers of texting and driving in our post “LOL…OMG…RIP” and during Brain Injury Awareness Month we felt it was important to reiterate the dangers of distracted driving. The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA), has launched a website dedicated to the prevention of texting and driving. Check it out and sign the pledge to never text and drive.