TORONTO—Ontario proposed a potentially costly hike in penalties for distracted drivers Monday by imposing three demerit points in addition to a maximum fine of up to $1,000 as part of wide-ranging road safety legislation.
Drivers who receive demerit points after being convicted of using their cellphones behind the wheel could face higher insurance premiums.
Just last month, Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice signed an order increasing the set fine for distracted driving to $225 from $125 starting March 18.
Under the judge’s order, drivers would face a fine of $280, including surcharges, starting Tuesday, but the new legislation allows judges to impose a fine of $1,000.
The legislation also mandates intensive alcohol education, treatment and monitoring programs for motorists convicted of repeated drinking and driving offences, said Transportation Minister Glen Murray.
“This legislation would keep people who use our roads safer—drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike,” said Murray.
The new bill will also increase fines for motorists who open their car door and hit a bicyclist, would allow bicycle lanes to go in the opposite direction to traffic on one-way streets and let cyclists use paved shoulders of divided highways.
“The legislation would require motorists to keep a distance of at least one metre between their vehicles and cyclists when passing,” Murray said to applause in the legislature.
The legislation would also require drivers to yield the whole roadway to pedestrians at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers.
“Pedestrians still represent about one in six of all motor vehicle-related fatalities in Ontario, and 41 per cent of these occurred at intersections,” said Murray.
The government consulted police, the Canadian Automobile Association and a host of others before drafting the new legislation, and adopted the components of several private member’s bills on safe driving measures, added Murray.
“This is an all-party bill and I hope it will quickly gain the confidence of this house,” he said.