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Increased penalties coming for distracted drivers

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

In an effort to make Ontario’s roads safer, the Ministry of Transportation has slated new changes to fines – some as stiff as $1,000 – that are set to come into effect this fall.

Starting Sept. 1, police officers could start charging between $300 and $1,000, along with slashing three demerit points upon conviction, for those caught while driving distracted. This is a heavy increase from the current fines that range from $60 to $500 and no points.

Sgt. Glenn Courneyea with Durham police says the service always welcomes changes that make roads safer.

Courneyea says despite continuous distracted driving blitzes and multiple reports toting the danger of texting and driving, DRPS continues to issue tickets to drivers with their eyes on the phones instead of the road.

“Anything that will possibly reduce that we are in favour of that,” he says. “If it requires demerit points for people to stop distracted driving then we are all for that.”

Courneyea says DRPS holds distracted driving blitzes at least once a month and continues to pull over drivers.

“We are still finding a large amount of people who are still not getting the point that they need their full concentration on the road,” he says.

Distracted driving has quickly become one of the leading causes of major injuries and death on roadways.

The changes were unanimously passed through the Ontario legislature, and MTO plans to initiate an education campaign this summer to start educating drivers about the changes.

Along with the increase to distracted driving, other changes include making the penalties for drugged driving the same as those faced by drivers caught drinking and driving.

Drivers will also need to start waiting to pedestrians are fully across the street before proceeding. As well, cyclists can now face fines from $60 to $500 for not having required lights and reflectors. This is an increase from the current $20 fine.

As well, drivers who “door” cyclists can face penalties between $300 and $1,000.