Attention all of you road warriors here in Ontario, Canada!
Effective September 1st, 2015 the Ontario Government will begin to enforce new legislation and stiffer penalties for existing driving laws.
Why am I writing about this?
Because for reasons unbeknownst to me, our government does not directly notify anyone with a driver’s license directly whenever they change the law. I mean, they obviously have our current mailing address which is reflected on our driver’s license. Could this be due to the expense of sending out a mailer? Or is it a sneaky way for them to earn more revenue from penalizing individuals who are not aware of the new laws?
Regardless, let’s get to the facts! If you’re driving in Ontario, here is what you need to know:
According to the Ministry of Transportation Bulletin issued June 2nd 2015, there will be:
- Increased Penalties for Distracted Driving. Fines will be increased from an average of $300 to up to $1000 in addition to 3 demerit points upon conviction. The Ontario Government estimates that by 2016 the number of fatalities from distracted driving may exceed those from drinking and driving. Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already!
- Require drivers to wait until pedestrians have completed crossing the road at all crosswalks before proceeding. It’s great to see that Ontario finally got on board with this because this is the only place where I’ve driven where drivers have such a blatant disregard for pedestrians! Perhaps this is why pedestrians represent almost 20% of the motor vehicle-related fatalities on our roads.
- Increased Penalties (fines and demerits) for drivers who “door” cyclists. Any driver who blatantly opens a door or moves their vehicle for that matter without looking should be penalized for such carelessness.
- Require drivers maintain a minimum of 1 metre distance when passing cyclists. This is good but all too often I see cyclists riding side-by-side, hogging entire lanes of the road! I have no patience for those people. We are supposed to share the road, not hog it regardless of whether you are on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle!
- Denial of driver’s license plate renewal if the driver has any outstanding Provincial Offences Act fines. I thought that this was already a law but apparently I have been misinformed!
- Allow a broader range of qualified medical professionals to identify and report medically unfit drivers. I’m not sure exactly what this means. I can see (pun intended) if an optometrist may deem an individual legally blind and therefore unfit to drive. However to what extent would this apply to other medical professionals? Could a nurse, a naturopath, a chiropractor…etc deem someone unfit to drive? Where does the government draw the line?
- Application of existing alcohol-impaired penalties to drug-impaired drivers. I’m not sure exactly they intend to quantify the degree of impairment for drug users since there is currently no simple roadside test synonymous to a breathalyzer. They also didn’t specify as to whether or not this refers to just illegal drugs or if it also applies to prescription drugs. Recent statistics in Ontario show that over 45% of drivers killed in a fatal car crash had alcohol and/or drugs in their system. What does that say for the other 55% of drivers???
For the most part, I agree with all of these new penalties because I believe it will make our roads safer. Where I am uncertain, is where the laws seem “too broad” and open to interpretation.
Furthermore, what is quite frightening is that the Ontario Government is also considering implementing an online monetary penalty system which would replace in-court procedures for resolving disputes. What that means is that if you get a traffic ticket, it will no longer have any written details from the issuing officer, just a penalty notice indicating the amount of money due and the number of demerits that will be applied. It also means that you will lose your right to contest the decision of the issuing officer in a court of law, therefore losing the right to a “fair process”.
How do you feel about the implementation of these new laws?
How do these laws compare to the laws in your home province or state?
I would love to hear your feedback fellow road warriors.
In the meantime, safe travels.