The Government of Ontario is taking a tougher stance against distracted driving. There will be a number of changes to the Ontario Traffic Laws which will take effect on September 1, 2015. The changes will include higher fines and increased demerit points. The legislation is an attempt by the Government of Ontario to make roads safer for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and roadside responders. There will also be new rules for cyclists as well, as part of a road sharing collaboration between motorists and cyclists.
Here is a summary of the legislative changes.
1. Distracted Driving
– currently range from $60 – $500, increasing to a range of $490 to $1000
– currently 0 demerit points, increasing to 3 demerit points upon conviction
– currently no escalating consequences
– change to 1st conviction (30 day suspension), 2nd conviction (90 day suspension), 3rd conviction (license revoked)
2. Cycling Safety
Fines for opening a vehicle door and hitting a passing cyclist
– currently range from $60 to $500
– increase to a range of $300 to $1,000
– currently 2 demerit points, increasing to 3 demerits upon conviction
New fine for not maintaining a distance of one metre when passing cyclist
– fine of $85 for non-compliance
Cyclist required to use bicycle lights and reflective material
– fine of $85 for non-compliance, increasing from $20 fine
Ontario Traffic Law now permits the construction of contra-flow bike lanes to improve the flow of cycling traffic by offering more direct routes and better connectivity of cycling lanes/paths.
Cycling without a helmet
– fine of $85
Cycling through an intersection crosswalk or pedestrian crossing (reminder – no increase)
– fine of $85
3. Pedestrian Safety
Motorists are required to yield to pedestrians until they have completely crossed the street at all school crossing and pedestrian crossings.
4. Roadside Responders
We all know that we need to slow down and move over when passing emergency vehicles with red or red and blue flashing lights on all roadways. The new legislation now requires this same safety measure when passing tow trucks or other roadside vehicles with amber flashing lights (such as tow trucks).
Drivers should slow down or change lanes (if possible) to reduce the risk of an accident. Drivers who fail to slow down or move over could receive a $490 fine and 3 demerit points if convicted.
Safety Tips for Drivers
1. Keep your phone out of sight and on silent while you are driving your car. You will not be distracted by the ring of a phone call or the ping of an email or text. Check your messages when you are stopped.
2. Reminder that you cannot check your phone even while stopped at a red light!
3. Distracted driving could include eating, drinking coffee, smoking or applying make-up while driving on a roadway – focus on the road ahead.
4. Shoulder check both left and right – looking for other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists before changing lanes, turning or opening vehicle doors.
5. Slow down and/or change lanes when you spot any emergency vehicles, tow trucks or any vehicles parked at the side of the road.
6. Drive with both hands on the steering wheel to maintain better control.
Safety Tips for Cyclists
1. Always ride in the direction of the traffic.
2. Maintain a safe distance from parked vehicles, watch for occupants in vehicles that may open a door.
3. Do not use a mobile phone while cycling.
4. Ensure that your bike is equipped with lights, bell/horn and is in good working condition.
5. Use the proper hand signals when turning left or right to notify motorists and other cyclists of your intentions.
6. Shoulder check before changing lanes or turning.
7. Keep both hands on your handle bars for better stability.
8. Yield to pedestrians.
We can all share the road and be safe.