Ontario looking at docking demerit points for drivers who talk, text
Ontario’s Liberal government is considering legislation that would deduct demerit points from motorists who make phone calls or text while driving.
“We now live in a world of BlackBerrys and iPhones, and it’s a different reality. The consequences of using those are similar to what we had with drinking and driving, so it’s time to really look at what kind of penalties would work,” Minister of Transportation Glen Murray told CTV Toronto.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, 51,776 motorists have been ticketed in Ontario this year for the offence. A total of 235,427 were ticketed during 2010-2013.
The current fine for distracted driving in Ontario is $155, with no demerit points associated with the offence.
Murray plans to introduce stiffer laws or regulations within months.
“It is certainly something I am personally supportive of and think we need to look at it seriously,” said Murray.
Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod thinks the government should consider suspending licenses to curb distracted driving.
“I think the fine is one issue, the demerit point is another; but when people are faced with the loss of their licenses for a week or two or a month, they may take those considerations very seriously,” said MacLeod.
MacLeod thinks it distracted driving has to become as taboo as drinking and driving.
For Toronto police who are tasked with implementing the distracted driving law, tougher penalties from the Ministry of Transportation are welcome news.
“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s something that will give us more of an impact when we do the enforcement,” Const. Clint Stibbe told CTV Toronto on Wednesday.
“Every day when I stop at a light, when I’m struggling around in my own car, I look over and see people looking down at their laps and I can guarantee you they aren’t looking to see what colour pants they are wearing,” said Stibbe.
The current law makes it illegal for motorist to talk, text, type and dial while using hand-held cell phones in Ontario. Hands-free devices are still allowed.
To move forward, the government is consulting with the police, the Canadian Automobile Association, the insurance industry and Mothers Against Drunk Driving on these proposed distracted driving changes.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss and Zuraidah Alman.