The province adopted the RCMP’s definition of distracted driving:
“Distracted driving is a form of impaired driving as a driver's judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Distract-ed driving qualifies as talking on a cell phone, texting, reading (e.g., books, maps, and newspapers), using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating/drinking, smoking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio/CD and playing extremely loud music. Even talking to passengers and driving while fatigued (mentally and/or physically) can be forms of distracted driving.”
To that end, Section 78 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act states:
• No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other devices in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver.
• No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a handheld wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.
• No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a handheld electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device, the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.
However, it goes on to say that a person may drive a motor vehicle on a high-way while using:
• Voice-activated calling or texting
• Dashboard/windshield-mounted GPS screen with pre-inputted destinations
• A pre-activated portable media player plugged into the sound system
• Safety-related display screens built into the vehicle
• Ignition interlock devices
What are the penalties in Ontario for distracted driving?
If you’re caught holding your phone while driving to talk, text, email or do any-thing else, you’ll be fined up $1,000, have your licence suspended for three days and be given three demerit points — this will negatively affect your insurance.
A second conviction for distracted driving could land you a $2,000 fine, a seven-day licence suspension, and six demerit points. Subsequent convictions come with $3,000 fines and month-long suspensions.
It’s important to note that these laws apply whether the car was in motion or stopped. If you were on your phone in the driver’s seat of a parked car with its engine running, you’d be subject to penalty under Ontario’s laws.