Can You Get Fined for Eating and Driving in Ontario?
Learn about what qualifies as distracted driving in Ontario, and what the penalities are.
The rules around distracted driving can be a little fuzzy – not everyone’s clear on exactly what you can get pulled over for. Is it okay to set up your GPS while on the road? What about eating and driving?
To get the full picture, let’s take a look back. In October 2009, it became illegal to use handheld communication or entertainment devices while driving. Since then, the rules have become stricter. In 2019, tougher laws came into effect.
Distracted driving takes many shapes and forms, and you could be charged for them
Technically, there are no laws saying you can’t eat and drive. But depending on the circumstances, you could still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
While the Ontario government hasn’t put specific rules on the book for other forms of distracted driving, being distracted by things other than your phone while driving is still extremely dangerous. Just take a look at the stats:
- About 80% of collisions are caused by some form of distracted driving
- Each year, distracted driving contributes to roughly 4 million collisions across North America
Eating and driving isn’t the only grey area. There are other activities you may not consider forms of distracted driving, but could hinder your ability to be a safe driver.
Sipping a coffee during your morning commute
Having a cup of Joe while you’re stuck in traffic can be tempting, but try not to drink it while driving.
It may seem like an innocent activity, but it presents a number of safety concerns. For one thing, you’ve got a hand off the wheel. For another, you may be fumbling to put the coffee back in the cup holder, look down momentarily, and miss a light change. Handling objects while driving reduces your reaction time, hindering your ability to react to sudden changes.
Grooming while you’re cruising
Primping while driving is not a good idea. Remember that infamous video of a BC motorist curling her hair while driving down a highway? While there’s no specific law that mentions curling irons, if caught, she would’ve been charged with careless driving – which at the time carried a fine of $368.
Taking a smoke break at the wheel
If you’re craving a cigarette, avoid smoking while driving. Again, there’s no law saying you can’t, but something as quick as putting out your cigarette could steal your attention at a critical moment.
It’s also good to note that it’s illegal to smoke in cars carrying children under 16. This carries a $250 fine.
What can I be pulled over for?
Technically, the chances are slim you’ll be pulled over for sipping a coffee while driving. Oftentimes, these non-electronic causes of distracted driving are only identified after a collision occurs. But why take the risk? When you’re driving, the road should have your undivided attention.
When it comes to phone or electronic device use, you’ll be pulled over if you’re using a one that isn’t securely mounted to your dashboard. Officers recommend that you don’t get cheeky with the rules by putting your phone in your lap for your Google Maps directions; it could fall out of your lap and onto the floor, tempting you to reach over and grab it.
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Using your phone while driving limits your situational awareness
Distracted driving laws were put into place for good reason. Need some help putting things into perspective? Consider these statistics from CAA.
- Checking a text for five seconds while driving 90 km/hour is the same as crossing an entire football field while blindfolded
- 26% of collisions involved phone use (including hands-free phone use)
- You fail to observe up to 50%of the information in your driving environment when you use your phone
How much can you be fined for distracted driving?
Previously, drivers received a maximum fine of $490 and in some cases, lost a few demerit points. Now, the system penalizes you based on your record:
- Minimum $615 fine that can be raised to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
- Three-day suspension
- Three demerit points
- Minimum $615 fine that can be raised to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
- Seven-day suspension
- Six demerit points
- Minimum $615 fine that can be raised to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
- 30-day suspension
- Six demerit points
Distraction driving isn’t worth the risk to your safety
Distracted driving isn’t worth that “On my way” text or bite of your morning bagel. If it’s urgent, pull over. If it can wait, let it wait. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind focused on your surroundings to keep both yourself and other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians safe.
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