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Distracted driving laws across Canada and how the offence impacts your car insurance rate

Feb. 3, 2022
6 mins
A distracted driver sits behind the wheel of a car and looks down at his phone

Some Canadians aren’t taking distracted driving as seriously as they should. A 2021 RATESDOTCA survey revealed that more than one in four Canadians (26%) admit to engaging in distracted driving behaviours regularly. Of those drivers, roughly half (49%) consider those behaviours to be safe.

The statistics, on the other hand, prove otherwise. In some parts of Canada, distracted driving fatalities have surpassed those caused by impaired driving, and the numbers continue to climb.

Sending a text or answering a call while behind the wheel is risker than it seems. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, taking your eyes off the road for even five seconds at 90 km/h is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

While safety may not be everyone’s primary incentive (though it should be), every province and territory enforces distracted driving-related legislation to discourage using electronic devices while behind the wheel. Distracted drivers can face fines, demerit points and auto insurance implications. In Ontario, for example, a distracted driving ticket will affect your auto insurance rate for no less than three years.

Distracted driving laws by province and territory

Here’s how distracted driving laws compare across the country for a first-time conviction. Click on a province or territory to learn more.

Province/territory

Minimum penalties

Alberta
  • $300 fine
  • Three demerit points

British Columbia

Manitoba

  • $672 fine
  • A shift five levels down the Driver Safety Rating (DSR) scale
  • Three-day licence suspension

New Brunswick

  • $172.50 fine
  • Three demerit points

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • $300-$500 fine
  • Four demerit points

Northwest Territories

  • $322 fine
  • Three demerit points

Nova Scotia

  • $233.95 fine
  • Four demerit points

Nunavut

  • $115 careless driving fine

Ontario

  • $615 fine
  • Three demerit points
  • Three-day licence suspension

Prince Edward Island

  • $575-$1,275 fine
  • Five demerit points

Quebec

  • $300-$600 fine
  • Five demerit points

Saskatchewan

  • $580 fine
  • Four demerit points

Yukon

  • Up to $500 fine
  • Three demerit points

Alberta

In Alberta, distracted driving laws apply to drivers using a hand-held device behind the wheel, such as a cellphone or Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as reading printed material, writing, or personal grooming, including flossing teeth and applying makeup.

You will face a $300 fine and three demerit points if convicted of distracted driving in the province.

British Columbia

British Columbia drivers charged with distracted driving can see a series of penalties. Not only will you see a $368 fine, but you will also get four demerit points for every distracted driving ticket you get. If you have four or more demerit points in a 12-month period, you will pay a DPP premium, starting at $252.

If you get more than one distracted driving ticket within three years, you could see a driver risk premium as well.

Manitoba

In Manitoba, drivers caught violating the distracted driving law receive a three-day licence suspension for a first offence and seven days for subsequent offences. However, if convicted, you will face a $672 fine and move down five levels of the DSR scale, increasing your insurance premium upon renewal.

New Brunswick

In New Brunswick, distracted driving is defined as “the diversion of attention from driving, as a result of the driver focusing on a non-driving object, activity, event, or person.”

The law states that you can’t make a call unless your device is hands-free or single touch, or if there is an emergency and you need to call 9-1-1. Texting is never permitted.

You will face a $172.50 fine and three demerit points if convicted of distracted driving.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, distracted driving falls under “driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons.”

This offence has escalating penalties:

  • First offence: $300 to $500 fine
  • Second offence: $500 to $750 fine
  • Subsequent offences: $750 to $1,000 fine

Drivers will also get four demerit points per distracted driving conviction.

Northwest Territories

Since 2012, it has been against the law to use a hand-held device while driving in the Northwest Territories. You will get a $322 fine and three demerit points if convicted of distracted driving. However, if caught in a school or construction zone, that fine is doubled ($644). You will also see an administrative licence suspension if you have a repeat offence within two years.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, distracted driving fines increase significantly with each conviction.

Here are the fines you can expect:

  • First offence: $233.95
  • Second offence: $348.95
  • Third offence: $578.95

You will also get four demerit points for each conviction, and if you get 10 demerit points, you will face a six-month licence suspension.

Nunavut

While Nunavut does ban the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel, there is no specific penalty for the violation. According to CBC News, however, “drivers caught texting and driving are likely looking at a $115 fine for careless driving until a formal penalty is implemented.”

Ontario

Ontario has some of the steepest distracted driving penalties in the country. Here are the escalating penalties:

  • First conviction: $615 fine, three demerit points, and a three-day suspension
  • Second conviction: $615 fine, six demerit points, and a seven-day suspension
  • Subsequent convictions: $615 fine, six demerit points, and a 30-day suspension

Novice drivers, however, face a 30-day suspension for a first offence and a 90-day suspension for a second offence rather than demerit points. You’ll have to redo the graduated licensing system if you get a third conviction.

Additionally, the fines increase if you receive a summons or fight the ticket in court and lose. For instance, if you have a first offence and fight your ticket unsuccessfully, you’ll have to pay a $1,000 fine instead of $615. This fine only increases with each conviction.

Prince Edward Island

In PEI, distracted driving fines range from $575 to $1,275 and five demerit points upon conviction. It is illegal to text, dial, chat, and email while driving in the province.

Quebec

In Quebec, drivers must not use a cellphone or other mobile device while driving unless calling 9-1-1 for an emergency.

Here are the distracted driving penalties in Quebec:

  • First offence: $300-$600
  • Subsequent offences: $600 (if convicted within two years)

Repeat offenders will also get an immediate licence suspension if convicted within two years of the first offence:

  • First repeat offence: three days
  • Second repeat offence: seven days
  • Third repeat offence: 30 days

Drivers will also get five demerit points for each conviction.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan drivers caught distracted driving can face escalating penalties:

  • First offence: $580 fine and four demerit points
  • Second offence: $1,400 fine, four demerit points, immediate seven-day vehicle seizure (if convicted within a year of the first offence)
  • Third offence: $2,100 fine, four demerit points, immediate seven-day vehicle seizure (if convicted within a year of the first offence)

While there is specific cellphone legislation in the province, drivers can face similar penalties for driving without due care. This infraction includes interacting with pets, eating, and personal grooming if the action takes away your attention from driving.

Yukon

In the Yukon, distracted driving is holding or operating any function on a mobile device while driving. Fully licenced drivers can use a hand-held device only if it is set up in a hands-free way. You will face a $500 fine and three demerit points if convicted of distracted driving.

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Hayley Osmond

Hayley Osmond is an editor and writer in the personal finance space, where she uses her eight years of media and marketing experience to bring content to life. She specializes in money products, including mortgages, home and auto insurance, and credit cards. Hayley holds a Broadcast Journalism diploma from Sheridan College and was awarded the Shaw Media Journalism and Media Award for graduating at the top of her class. Her work has appeared in Global News and diverse digital corporate training materials behind the scenes.

Hayley is passionate about making complex subjects, such as home buying and financial literacy, concise and intriguing. Her work has garnered media coverage from The Globe and Mail, blogTO, Yahoo! News, and CityNews 680 and has been syndicated across other publications.

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