Distracted driving is a common problem throughout Ontario, and it may lead to serious car accidents and injuries. While many drivers understand that it is not safe to perform other actions while driving, they are often still tempted to text or use their phones. Recent changes to Ontario’s road safety laws provide significant penalties for drivers who get convictions for distracted driving.

CBC News reports that the new distracted driving penalties come as part of Ontario’s legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. Part of the bill, which the government passed in 2017, included language to improve safety for drivers and passengers on Ontario roadways. The bill mentioned January 1, 2019, as the starting date for the new distracted driving penalties. Drivers who get caught using their phones or other hand-held devices while driving may earn a $1,000 fine and a three-day license suspension. Subsequent convictions may lead to higher fines and longer license suspensions.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation provides more details on what constitutes distracted driving. Under the law, drivers may not use a hand-held communication device, such as a phone, while they are behind the wheel, even when they are at a red light. Drivers may only use voice commands to program a GPS device that is either mounted securely on the dashboard or built into the front console. The law allows drivers to use hands-free communication devices, such as Bluetooth headsets. Ontario’s law makes an exception for drivers to touch their devices if they need to make an emergency call. However, the MOT does encourage all drivers to pull over to a safe area off the road to make an emergency call. Drivers may improve road safety and avoid distracted driving behavior by putting their phones in silent mode or turning them off when they get into the car.