Ontario Government vows to reintroduce crackdown on distracted driving
Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s concerned that Ontario teens are forming bad habits when it comes to texting while driving, after a new survey suggested an alarming number of students are typing while behind the wheel.
Her re-elected Liberal government will bring back legislation that would toughen penalties and add demerit points for distracted driving, Wynne said.
“These machines are so ubiquitous in their lives that they just have them with them all the time, and so we need to break that cycle,” she said.
The survey conducted for the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health found that more than one-third of licensed Ontario students in Grades 10 to 12 — an estimated 108,000 teens — reported having texted while behind the wheel at least once in the past year.
Among Grade 12 students alone, 46 per cent of those who drive say they also texted at least once while operating a vehicle, according to the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey.
Yet the student surveys have found that the percentage of students who reported drinking and driving has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, it said.
There are more deaths as a result of texting while driving than drunk driving, Wynne said.
“It’s a real problem and that’s why we’ll be reintroducing the legislation.”
The previous bill, which would impose three demerit points in addition to increasing the maximum fine for distracted driving to $1,000, died when the June 12 election was called. (Source: Toronto Star)
Posted to Yahoo News Canada. Ran in Thunder Bay Chronicle, St. John’s Telegram, Ottawa Citizen, Nanaimo Daily News, Prince George Citizen, Brandon Sun, and Regina Leader Post
Distracted driving fines increase to $280 on March 18
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says drivers talking on the phone or texting now cause more deaths on Ontario roads than drunk drivers.
Fines for distracted driving are set to nearly double next month, but you can’t blame the government for this one.
The decision to increase the fine for driving while using a hand-held device — such as a cellphone or MP3 player — to $280 from $155 starting March 18 comes courtesy of Annemarie Bonkalo, chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Bonkalo was not asked to rule on the issue, nor did she provide detailed reasons for her decision, but with the simple stroke of a pen, she has made distracted driving an even more unattractive option.
The Feb. 18 judicial order appears to have come out of nowhere. It is perfectly within Bonkalo’s statutory authority, say her office and the province, but it comes at a time when the minority Liberals are already promising to introduce a package of distracted driver changes, including possibly demerit points.
Bonkalo’s order represents the first time the fine has been changed since legislation was enacted in 2009.
The Transportation ministry confirmed it did not ask Bonkalo for the increase but its minister, Glen Murray, nonetheless told reporters Tuesday he was pleased with her decision, saying it fits in with the government’s overall efforts to crack down on distracted driving.
Progressive Conservative transportation critic Jeff Yurek sees things differently. He said the judge may have been frustrated with the government dragging its feet on the issue, noting it has failed to push through a private member’s bill from one of its own MPPs that would dramatically increase distracted driving fines and add demerit points.
“I think it speaks to a lack of initiative this government is showing,” Yurek said.
He said it was certainly a concern that a judge can increase a fine without it first being debated among elected officials in the legislature, but Bonkalo “was probably frustrated that this government has not acted on this issue that is killing Ontarians.” (Source: Toronto Star)