Distracted driving rules work best when we’re all aware of the reasons we can be pulled over. We know we can’t text and drive, but is it okay to plug directions into our GPS? What about eating and driving?
Can I eat or drink while driving?
There’s no law saying you can’t eat or drink — non-alcoholic beverages of course — and drive. But depending on the circumstances you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
Imagine pulling a handful of fries from a paper bag on the passenger seat or glancing down to grab a hot coffee from the cup holder while going 120 km/hour on the highway. With your eyes off the road, you could swerve out of your lane or fail to break in time if the car ahead suddenly slows down.
In these situations, a police officer has the discretion to charge you with careless or even dangerous driving.
If you’re charged with careless driving
Careless driving is the lesser of the two charges since it’s a non-criminal offence that falls under the Highway Traffic Act. Still, the penalties can include:
- Fines ranging from $400 to $2,000
- A six-month jail sentence
- Suspension of your licence for up to two years
- Six demerit points
If you’re charged with dangerous driving
Being charged with dangerous driving is more serious since it falls under the Criminal Code of Cana-da. If you’re found guilty, the penalties can include:
- A jail term of up to 10 years even if you didn’t cause bodily harm, up to 14 years if you did, and up to life if you caused someone’s death
- A fine of at least $1,000
- Suspension of your licence
- A criminal record
While both charges will result in a higher insurance rate, a difference between the two charges is that dangerous driving implies you had intent to commit the action and knew, or should have known, what you did was dangerous.
Distracted driving laws and your devices
In October 2009, it became illegal to use handheld communication or entertainment devices while driving. Then, in 2019, tougher laws came into effect.
What can or can’t I do with a device while driving?
If the engine is running, whether your car is moving or stopped, it’s illegal to have a phone or other device in your hand or even touch it. The ban includes but is not limited to making calls, sending texts, checking email and programming your GPS. To avoid getting into trouble, set up directions ahead of time and enable voice commands. No brainer here but you’re also prohibited from using a tablet, port-able gaming device or watching a video while driving.
However, you are allowed to use a hands-free wireless device with an earpiece, lapel button or Blue-tooth, and can look at a GPS device built into the car or securely mounted on the dashboard.
An exception to the handheld ban is that you can touch your phone to call 911 in an emergency.