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Distracted driving penalties

Highway sign warns motorists not to text. Stock photo by Getty Images

As Canadians become increasingly tied to cellphones, tablets and other electronic gadgets, distracted driving has become a serious danger on our roads.

Drivers using a cellphone are four times more likely to crash, and distracted driving is a factor in about four million car crashes in North America every year. In some areas, distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving as the leading cause of automotive fatalities.

Accordingly, every Canadian province and territory except Nunavut now has distracted driving laws on the books, laying out fines and demerit points.

For example, in Ontario tougher penalties for distracted driving will go into effect on January 1, 2019. If you have an A, B,C,D,E,F, and/or G licence, you will face the following distracted driving penalties:

For your first conviction:

  • a fine of up to $1,000
  • a loss of three demerit points
  • a three-day driver's licence suspension

For a second conviction within five years of the first offence:

  • a fine of up to $2,000
  • a loss of six demerit points
  • a seven-day driver's licence suspension

For a third and all subsequent convictions within five years of the first offence:

  • a fine of up to $3,000
  • a loss of six demerit points
  • a 30-day driver's licence suspension

Novice drivers, who are still working towards getting their full licence, will also be penalized. As of January 1, 2018, a novice driver who holds a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, and is convicted of distracted driving, will face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences. But instead of losing demerit points, novice drivers will be penalized by:

  • a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
  • a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
  • cancellation of their novice licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction. Novice drivers will have to start the GLS program over again from the beginning.

Other provinces may follow Ontario's lead. It's best to check with your province's Ministry of Transportation to see if your province is toughening its penalties for distracted driving.

Every law forbids using hand-held devices while driving, although some have further provisions for graduating drivers and hands-free devices.

Read more:

Distracted driving statistics and prevention tips 

Laws, tips and tools from the RCMP