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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ontario Passes Bill Increasing Distracted Driving Fines to Meaningful

Drivers in Ontario, have a new set of rules to follow and face harsher fines if they fail to comply. Ontario passed the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, which will enact several amended traffic laws increasing fines for distracted driving, including the denial of license plates for unpaid fines.

Formerly known as Bill 31, the act amends the Highway Traffic Act and the Highway 407 East Act, 2012. One amendment will prevent drivers who fail to pay traffic fines from renewing or acquiring a new license plate. Currently, unpaid tickets can result in permit invalidation and denial of renewal. The denial of plates is limited to a few infractions, including parking tickets. The amendment expands the denial of a permit to plates, which adds a broader range of traffic violations that are unpaid to cause a driver to be denied new vehicle plates.

Prior to the amendment, medical reports to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles were limited to doctors and optometrists. Under the new bill, any “persons to be prescribed by regulation” are authorized to file a report if they feel that a patient has a medical condition or impairment that will compromise the driver’s ability to drive safely. It is not clear at the moment who exactly qualifies to file reports.

“The ministry has not yet determined which types of medical practitioners will be included in new reporting requirements,” Ontario Ministry of Transportation Spokesperson Bob Nichols told Land Line in an email. “Bill 31 provides the ministry with the authority to expand to other health care professionals; however, this will only be determined after comprehensive consultations with the medical community.”

Drivers operating a vehicle while distracted will now face steeper penalties. Section 78 of the Highway Traffic Act prohibits the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the vehicle to be visible to the driver. Bill 31 has increased the fines for violations of Section 78 from $60-$500 to $300-$1,000. Those convicted of distracted driving will also receive three demerit points. Novice drivers can receive stiffer penalties.

Other amendments in Bill 31 include:

Higher fines and demerits for hitting cyclists with vehicle door.

Early reinstatement of license for participating in ignition interlock program after DUI conviction replaced with a conduct review program.

Drivers must wait for pedestrians to cross the street completely before proceeding, rather than wait until a pedestrian has passed their vehicle.

Maximum vehicle length extended from 25 meters to 27.5 meters.