Distracted Driving Laws in Canada

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 a form of driver distraction was in involved in 65% of near crashes and 80% of collisions (for more distracted driving statistics, click here). Due to the significant amount of accidents caused by distracted driving, the Canadian provincial and territorial governments have implemented laws to encourage those on the road to eliminate distractions while driving. Being aware of distracted driving laws in Canada can help you avoid an accident or a penalty. To learn more about distracted driving laws and how they differ by province or territory, keep reading.

What Constitutes Distracted Driving in Canada?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) defines distracted driving as any driver who is mentally or physically fatigued or distracted. The RCMP also states that distractions and fatigue can compromise judgment and impact your capabilities to drive safely. Below is a list of instances outlined by the RCMP where you may be driving distracted.

  • Smoking or vaping
  • Listening to loud music
  • Communicating with passengers
  • Reading a map, book, etc.
  • GPS programming
  • Using a cell phone to talk or text (hands-free included)
  • Eating or drinking
  • Radio adjustment
  • Watching movies or videos
  • Personal grooming
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Distracted Driving Laws by Province and Territory

At the moment, no province or territory has made the use of hands-free cell phones while driving illegal. However, Ontario and British Columbia have banned the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. Furthermore, Alberta has extended its ban of handheld electronics to also include eating, drinking, reading, writing and personal grooming. Distracted driving laws are a provincially and territorially controlled matter, let’s explore how the laws vary by province and territory.

Distracted Driving Laws in British Columbia

Fines: $543 for the first offence, $888 for the second offence

Demerit Points: 4

If you have two or more infractions in a twelve month period, you may be at risk of incurring a three to twelve month probation period. In addition, British Columbia’s base fine is $368 plus $175 for their ICBC driver penalty point premiums program. If you commit a second offense in a 12 month period, the ICBC driver penalty point premium fine is $368 plus $520.

Distracted Driving Laws in Alberta

Fines: $287 per offence

Demerit Points: 3

Distracted Driving Laws in Saskatchewan

Fines: $280 per offence

Demerit Points: 4

Saskatchewan has two separate pieces of legislation related to distracted driving: cell phone legislation and driving without due care legislation. The repercussions are the same under both pieces of legislation, but they highlight different types of distracted driving. Under both legislations, if you are distracted driving two or more times in a one year period, your vehicle will be impounded for seven days.

Distracted Driving Laws in Manitoba

Fines: $672 per offence

Demerit Points: 5

The first time you are distracted driving in Manitoba you will receive a three day licence suspension and a seven day suspension for future offences.

Distracted Driving Laws in Ontario

Fines: $615 to $1,000 for the first offence, $615 to $2,000 for the second offence, $615 to $3,000 for the third and subsequent offences

Demerit Points: 3 to 6

In Ontario, the higher level of licensing you have, the worse the further penalties are for distracted driving. In addition to the fines and demerit points above, you will receive a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or you lose in court when fighting the ticket for your first conviction plus a three-day license suspension. The additional fine goes up to $2,000 on your second conviction for a summons or loss in court and you will get a seven-day license suspension. Finally, the additional fine goes up to $3,000 on your third conviction for summons or loss in court and you will get a 30-day license suspension.

Novice drivers receive less harsh repercussions, usually a license suspension. Under a novice driver’s third conviction, their license can be cancelled and they will need to go through the GLS program again to obtain a license.

Last but not least, Ontario penalizes careless driving more seriously. Careless driving is the act of endangering other’s lives due to distracted driving. Carless drivers receive six demerit points, fines up to a maximum of $2,000, six months of jail time and license suspension for a maximum of two years. Causing bodily harm or death to another is known as dangerous driving. Dangerous drivers can serve prison time up to 10 years for causing bodily harm and 14 years for causing death.

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Distracted Driving Laws in Quebec

Fines: $300 to $600 per offence, repeat offences are the maximum ($600)

Demerit Points: 5

Licenses are suspended for three days the first time you have a repeat offence, seven days for your second repeat offence, and thirty days for your third repeat offence. Quebec also has a unique penalty for drivers wearing headphones or earphones in both ears. The penalty for committing this type of distracted driving is $100 to $200.

Distracted Driving Laws in New Brunswick

Fines: $172.50 per offence

Demerit Points: 3

Distracted Driving Laws in Nova Scotia

Fines: $233.95 for the first offence, $348.95 for the second offence, $578.95 for the third and subsequent offences

Demerit Points: 4

Distracted Driving Laws in Newfoundland and Labrador

Fines: $100 to $1,000 per offence

Demerit Points: 4

Distracted Driving Laws in Prince Edward Island

Fines: $572 to $1,275 per offence

Demerit Points: 5

Distracted Driving Laws in The Territories

Yukon Fines: $500 per offence

Yukon Demerit Points: 3

Northwest Territories Fines: $322 to $644 per offence

Northwest Territories Demerit Points: 3

In the Northwest Territories, the fee is increased to $644 if you are driving distracted in a school or construction zone. You are also subject to license suspensions when committing a second, third and fourth distracted driving offence in a two year period.

Nunavut Fines: N/A (no laws in place)

Nunavut Demerit Points: N/A (no laws in place)

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How to Reduce Distractions While Driving

Distracted driving is important to avoid for legal reasons but also for safety reasons. It may feel like looking away for a few seconds is harmless but, in fact, checking a text for 5 seconds on a highway means you’ve travelled a football field length completely blindfolded. Tips on avoiding distracted driving are detailed below.

  • Download an app that blocks calls
  • Ask a passenger to take a call or send a text for you
  • Put your phone on silent or do not disturb while driving
  • Pullover

Attentive Driving is Safe Driving

Avoiding legal consequences is important in addition to preserving the safety of others. Do your best to practice safe driving by remaining attentive on the road. If you want further information on your distracted driving laws and penalties in your province or territory, visit the respective government distracted driving website page.

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