New Ontario distracted driving laws come into effect in January

In June 2018, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that distracted driving was the leading cause of traffic accidents in the province, making it as much a threat to public safety as drunk driving, drug-impaired driving, or dangerous driving. The announcement was unlikely to surprise Ontario car accident lawyers, but it may have come as a shock to the general public.

At the time, the government’s preventative efforts focused strongly on public education. The OPP and Ministry of Transportation partnered with local stakeholders to initiate awareness campaigns.

“A lot of kids follow their parents’ footsteps, so if they see their parents texting they might think it’s OK. They see their parents smoking they might think it’s OK,” said Holly Allen, a project coordinator with Kingston: Partners for a Safe Community in an interview with Global News this summer. “Trying to educate everyone is the goal, but educating parents first and foremost.”

Durham region also initiated a public messaging campaign underlining the dangers of the ‘Big Four Killers’ on Ontario roads: distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and driving without a seatbelt.

Unfortunately, education may not be enough to prevent Ontarians from driving while distracted. In a survey conducted by Desjardins, which we discussed at length in a previous blog about distracted driving, a majority of respondents suggested that only fines and higher insurance premiums would push them to reconsider their distracted driving habits.

In 2019, they will get what they asked for. As part of changes to the provincial Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, distracted driving will be punished more harshly in come January. First time offenders will face a maximum fine of $1,000, a three-day license suspension, and three demerit points; second time offenders will face a $2,000 fine, seven-day license suspension, and six demerit points; and subsequent offences will provoke up to $3,000 in fines and a 30-day suspension. In other words, Ontario will have the harshest distracted driving penalties in the country.

“Safety is our top priority,” Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek told the CBC in an email. The legislation, he added, “allows the province to address unsafe driving behaviours including careless and impaired driving with tough new rules and penalties that will improve road safety.”

While Ontario car accident lawyers are sure to support the new measures, most will caution that neither public education nor harsher penalties will reduce distracted driving on their own. The province and its municipalities must enact comprehensive distracted driving strategies to meaningfully improve road safety in Ontario.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers today to learn how we can help.

Canadians understand the risks of distracted driving – but don’t drive like they do

The large majority of Canadians, from experienced car accident lawyers to everyday commuters, understands the dangers of distracted driving. Unfortunately, a recent study by Desjardins suggests that Canadians’ understanding of these risks hasn’t translated into safer behaviour behind the wheel.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents to Desjardins’ survey reported regularly seeing fellow road users interacting with smartphones while driving, though only 21 per cent admitted to doing so themselves. Sixteen- to 24-year-olds were most likely to admit being distracted by their smartphones, with 11 per cent saying they used them regularly while on the road.

The most common source of smartphone distraction for all drivers was GPS apps. Other reported sources of distraction included the external environment, passengers or children in the vehicle, in-vehicle entertainment systems, and eating or drinking while driving.

Smartphone use is the most vilified form of distracted driving but, as car accident lawyers know, distraction of any sort is dangerous. Overall,  38 per cent of respondents admitted to driving while distracted by any factor.

“Despite continued declines in fatalities due to road crashes in the past decade, deaths involving distracted driving have increased,” said Robyn Robertson, President and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, in a Desjardins release. “Through our partnership with Desjardins, we are able to track data to raise awareness among Canadians.”

Raising awareness of the risks of distracted driving is an important goal, but Desjardins’ survey suggests that awareness alone isn’t much of a deterrent. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said that getting into a crash would make them less likely to drive while distracted, as opposed to 55 per cent who worried about fines and higher insurance rates. Sixty-eight per cent believed that existing penalties aren’t harsh enough to prevent distracted driving.

“We know that changing driver behaviour is a key component of Vision Zero…,” said Steve Podborski, President and CEO of Canada’s national charity for injury prevention, Parachute, in the same Desjardins release, “These deaths are not the result of ‘accidents’ but due to preventable and predictable events. Through education, changing how we build our cars and roads, and through enforcement, we can create safer travel for all Canadians.

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving distracted driving, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers can assess the validity of your claim and provide guidance as you navigate Ontario’s complex legal system.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert

 

Durham Region adopts public messaging in bid to improve road safety

In Durham Region, the municipality directly east of Toronto, a motor vehicle accident occurs every 48 minutes and someone is injured in a crash every five hours. Since 2012, the region has endured a 33 per cent increase in fatal collisions, with approximately 37 per cent of those collisions linked to distracted driving. For local law enforcement and every car accident lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area, the prevalence of serious accidents in Durham is cause for concern.

In response to the region’s road safety issues, Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) has launched an expansive public messaging campaign promoting education and awareness. The program underlines the dangers of impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and not wearing a seatbelt, the “Big Four Killers” on Ontario roads.

“We wanted something that would create more enduring change than just getting a ticket,” said Const. Shawn Finley, chair of the north Durham traffic committee, according to DurhamRegion.com. “When you get a ticket, that might alter your behaviour for a short period of time, say the time it takes you to think of what that ticket cost, but we wanted something to get people thinking about the controllable behaviours that contribute to the big four killers.”

The DRPS’s approach, which includes installing posters at LCBOs and grocery stores and distributing pamphlets, is a breath of fresh air to any Ontario car accident lawyer, many of whom have advocated for public messaging and education to be deployed alongside tough traffic laws.

“It’s important to educate the public so they understand texting and driving is killing people, it’s raising the possibility of an accident,” said Staff-Sgt. Colin Shaw of DRPS North Division. “We don’t want to wait for someone to have an accident before we deal with the fact that they were speeding, drinking and driving or texting and driving.”

In 2015, impaired driving caused 166 DRPS-investigated collisions leading to 22 injuries and four deaths. The Service laid more than 700 impaired driving charges that year, in addition to more than 2,700 distracted driving charges and around 2,500 speeding charges.

As new road safety challenges like distracted driving and marijuana legalization emerge across Canada, police services and lawmakers at all levels of government are turning to innovative public messaging campaigns in a bid to influence driver behaviour. The approach has proven effective in the decades-long fight against drunk driving; however, distracted driving fatality rates have yet to fall, and the impact of marijuana legalization on road safety remains to be seen.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automotive accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to speak with an experienced Oakville car accident lawyer today. Our team will provide guidance and advice as you pursue compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: Zachary77F/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

New technologies pose distracted driving risks

 

Last month, an Ontario Justice of the Peace found a woman guilty of distracted driving after she was caught checking her Apple Watch while behind the wheel of her car. The case underscores not only the evolving role of technology in our lives, but also the need for up-to-date laws governing the use of these devices. Today, drivers, law enforcement officers, and Ontario personal injury lawyers are making due with a patchwork of rapidly aging legislation.

In the Apple Watch case, a University of Guelph police officer testified that Victoria Ambrose checked her device several times while stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, the cars in front of her moved forward while she remained stationary. The police officer eventually shined a light into Ambrose’s vehicle, at which point she began to drive. The officer pulled her over and issued a ticket for distracted driving, which Ambrose contested.

“Despite the Apple Watch being smaller than a cellular phone, on the evidence, it is a communication device capable of receiving and transmitting electronic data,” said Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps, according to the National Post. “While attached to the defendant’s wrist, it is no less a source of distraction that a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist.”

Canada’s Highway Traffic Act prohibits drivers from operating handheld wireless communication devices but doesn’t specifically address wearable technologies like the Apple Watch. As these devices grow more popular, lawmakers must decide when their use is acceptable and when it increases the risk of motor vehicle collisions.

Legitimate questions of liability can also be raised in accidents involving wireless technology. To be sure, drivers have a responsibility to remain focused on the road, not on their electronic device. But as more people become aware of the danger of distracted driving, individuals who knowingly send messages to drivers may be asked to bear some responsibility for third party damages. According to CBC News Toronto, a 2013 court decision established this possibility in the state of New Jersey, and some Ontario personal injury lawyers anticipate similar rulings in Canada.

Electronics manufacturers could also be held responsible for traffic deaths. In 2016, a California lawsuit alleged that Apple’s failure to implement a feature restricting the use of FaceTime while behind the wheel caused a fatal 2014 car accident. Both Apple and Google have announced plans to combat phone addiction by limiting screen time – is limiting screen time for drivers also possible?

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident caused by distracted driving, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to learn how our experienced team can help.

 

 

Aviva Canada report highlights ongoing distracted driving issues

 

Distracted driving remains a serious problem in Canada despite increased penalties and aggressive public messaging from law enforcement, safety advocates, government agencies, and personal injury lawyers. The growing scope of the issue was recently highlighted by statistics released by Aviva Canada, a national insurance company.

According to an Aviva release, the company has seen a “trend of increased claims linked to distracted driving” since 2016. Twenty-three per cent more distracted driving claims were received in 2018 than in 2016 nationwide, driven by a 58 per cent increase in Alberta and 34 per cent increase in Québec.

In Ontario, claims increased by 12 per cent. Local personal injury lawyers will be disappointed to learn that claims jumped 18 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“Despite increased penalties and awareness on this issue, too many Canadians are still driving distracted behind the wheel,” said Aviva Canada’s Chief Underwriting Officer, Phil Gibson, in the release. “The majority of these accidents are preventable – such as hitting stationary objects, rear ending other vehicles and inattentive lane changes.”

If an accompanying public opinion poll issued by Aviva is any indication, Canadians are profoundly aware of the dangers of distracted driving: 95 per cent of respondents confirmed that motorists who text and drive make them feel unsafe, and 78 per cent said they would support a technological solution to the issue, such as phones being automatically disabled while behind the wheel.

To date, all efforts to curtail distracted driving in Canada have been ineffective. Despite awareness of the risks and aggressive policing, drivers don’t seem able to put away their phones while on the road. It may be that only time can change this dangerous behaviour.

“People need to come to the realization that distracted driving causes all the damage, all the lives lost and all the hurt in society that impaired driving causes,” Calgary Police Service Sgt. Dale Seddon told CTV News Calgary following the Aviva release. “The two equate to each other just like that and even though distracted driving is newer, if you will, than impaired driving it causes all the catastrophe that impaired driving does.”

If you have been injured in a car accident involving distracted driving or any other form of negligence, contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville office to learn how we can help. Our experienced, understanding team can assess the validity of your personal injury claim and suggest appropriate next steps. Call us today at 1 (866) 503 8757 to arrange a free legal consultation.

 

Image credit: frankieleon/Flickr

Can the Province of Ontario do more to prevent dangerous driving?

A recent survey conducted by Leger Research on behalf of insurer belairdirect found that the vast, vast majority of Canadians (95 per cent) believe they are good drivers, a conclusion that might surprise Ontario personal injury lawyers. Most of the survey’s 1,551 respondents were also able to identify risky driving behaviour, including driving under the influence, distracted driving, and fatigued driving.

Paradoxically, a staggering 93 per cent of the same respondents admitted to bad driving habits including distracted driving, eating while driving, talking on a cellphone while driving, and applying makeup while driving, according to the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Clark. An additional 31 per cent admitted to running red lights, and 29 per cent to disobeying road signs.

“Show me someone who thinks they’re a good driver and I’ll show you someone who’s never seen a professional take a car around the track,” Clark writes. “If we’re being honest, most of us are pretty good drivers at best and the thing that keeps us that way is a realistic appraisal of our skills.”

When even self-described “good drivers” engage in risky behaviour, what can be done to improve road safety? Ontario personal injury lawyers understand that distracted driving activities like the ones belairdirect’s respondents admitted to cause more accidents in the province today than drunk driving.

Indeed, Queen’s Park already imposes stiff penalties on distracted drivers. A convicted individual will have their license suspended and face a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee for a total of $490, if settled out of court. If a court appearance is necessary, the fine can be as much as $1,000.

Drivers will also have three demerit points applied to their records, which allows insurance brokers to apply further monetary punishment. Some drivers could see their rates double until the points are cleared, and even those with infraction-free records are likely to experience a bump of a couple hundred dollars.

“People just don’t think about the insurance aspects of bad driving,” InsuranceHotline.com’s Anne Marie Thomas told the Globe and Mail.

While lawmakers and insurers adopt monetary penalties to prevent distracted driving, the belairdirect study reveals the possibility of a different approach: paying off drivers. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to quit at least one bad habit in exchange for a cash incentive.

While the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP don’t condone payments to dangerous drivers, the survey makes clear that distracted driving remains a serious issue in Canada, even among those who consider themselves safe, capable drivers. If the government’s existing punishments fail to improve road safety, perhaps more creative solutions are necessary.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. We can help you access compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Chad Warren

Request a free consultation

COPYRIGHT 2020 © WILL DAVIDSON LLP