This morning marks the day that Ontario law enforcement starts cracking down on distracted drivers. Currently there is a 3 month education period which allows drivers to become familiar with this new policy. During this grace period (up to Feb 1, 2010), most drivers will only be receiving a warning. After Feb 1, 2010, according to this new law, anyone caught using a handheld device, while operating a moving vehicle, will be reprimanded. This could include a fine, or for repeat offenders, possible imprisonment.
Other provinces that have already enacted a similar law have since seen a significant decrease of inattentive drivers. Newfoundland started enforcing their distracted driving law in 2002, and since then the number of tickets issued to drivers has substantially increased from 48 in 2002, to 745 in 2007. The injuries and fatalities from inattentive driving crashes dropped 22% from 2003 and 2006. Distracted driving still accounts for a majority of Newfoundlands vehicle collisions.
Some examples of on-road situations that could cause a driver to receive a fine include using your cell phone to dial or receive calls without the aid of a headset, texting on your mobile device, programming your GPS, or surfing the internet on your laptop or mobile device. (Note that we recommend programming of your GPS be done prior to starting up your vehicle). If a phone call or text message requires immediate attention, pull over to the side of the road when safe and finish the conversation.
GPS City has a solution to the problem of distracted driving - a bluetooth integrated Garmin GPS. These units offer hands-free calling via a bluetooth connection, so you can make and receive phone calls without the use of your handset.
As the distracted driving laws continue to make their way across Canada, the leniency on offenders will gradually decrease. Please make sure you are aware of the laws in your province, and in other areas when traveling. For more information, contact CAA, or visit www.distracteddriving.ca.