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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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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