Ontario New Distracted Driving Laws Came into Effect January 1, 2019

In Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000. In Ontario one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour. A driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash. There were 7,435 crashes in Toronto in 2016 caused by distracted driving.

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

Officers will not be allowed to seize driver’s licenses at roadside. Only under a judge’s approval and after the driver is found guilty will the driver’s license be suspended.

According to the official Government of Ontario website, anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road constitutes distracted driving. These include activities such as:

  • Simply holding an electronic device in your hands (hand-held communication during driving is against the law)
  • Using a cellular phone to talk, text, check maps or switch playlists
  • Eating (there may not be a license suspension, but you should be warned you could be fined or given six demerits depending on the food)
  • Reading books or documents
  • Typing a destination into the GPS

Distracted driving is not limited to just the use of electronics, as most people assume. Doing any of the aforementioned activities while behind the wheel makes you guilty of distracted driving, even if you’re on the highway or stopped at a red light.

  • Hands-free devices (e.g. Bluetooth), but only to turn it on and off
  • Mounted devices, as long as they are secured properly

These rules were enforced as of August 31, 2017, but more restrictions may have been added since then (e.g., doing makeup).

O. Reg. 366/09, s.4 (4)

Persons employed as automobile technicians or mechanics may test drive a motor vehicle on a highway with a computer display screen that provides diagnostic information about the vehicle’s performance in the motor vehicle visible to the driver.

According to my sources, it’s up to the discretion of the Officer. If he/she feels that you are using the device and you are distracted by having it on your lap or on the seat you will most likely be charged and fined.

I suggest that if you are doing a road test and you need to have a diagnostic device that you have another technician in the passenger seat who can read the monitor while you are driving. For those of you who think this is an inconvenience by having two of your employees out on the road test consider the following:

  • First offense: 3 days suspension and $1,000 fine
  • Second offense: 7 days suspension and $2,000 fine
  • Three or more offenses: 30 days suspension, $3,000 fine and six demerit points

For the shop owner, the technician who gets a license suspension will be dropped from your Commercial Insurance policy. Bear in mind this could be for any offense that involves a suspension of the technician’s license.