What are the Distracted Driving Laws in Canada?

What are the Distracted Driving Laws in Canada?

How many of us are guilty of distracted driving and not known the distracted driving laws? If you are human, chances are you have driven distracted at least once. It could be answering a phone call or just replying to a text while at the wheel. This is a very irresponsible and deadly thing to do but most of us do it daily.

The question we need to ask is why? As human beings we have a very difficult time focusing our attention on only one thing. If we try to focus on something for a long time, it becomes a burden for us. Our mind will do anything to take itself off it, especially in this day and age where we are constantly distracted by our mobile phones and social media. Our attention span has become shorter than ever before.

As per the research done by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, they concluded that driving while you are distracted is as dangerous as driving while you are drunk. We may not think taking your eyes away for a few moments is no big deal. But in reality, you are not alone on the road. Countless cars are coming and passing towards you each second. So, a few seconds of your negligence might be the cause of a life and death situation.

What do we mean by distracted driving?

Simply put, distracted driving is when you do not have 100 percent of your attention on the road while you are behind the wheel of your car. This is dangerous. People call distracted driving the new DUI. Each province in Canada has their own laws on distracted driving. We know what a distraction is while driving. But here we will learn what is considered distracted driving by the law. If you break the distracted driving laws in Canada, you will be penalized.

As per the NSC (National Safety Council) you are driving distracted even when you take your eyes off the road for couple of seconds because taking your eyes of the road for those couple of seconds disables you from seeing more than 50 percent of your surroundings. Chances are a car heading towards you during those distracted couple of seconds won’t even register in your consciousness. This increases the possibility of hitting a vehicle. There are more Canadians recently who are on social media while driving. This is why the distracted driving laws in Canada are becoming more prominent than ever.

If you are looking for a definition which sums up distracted driving, then the CCMTA (Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators) has the perfect answer. They define distracted driving as when a driver diverts his or her attention to a non-driving object. An object which is not necessary for driving, doing an activity which is not related to driving, or talking to person which is not related to driving. All of this diverts and reduces the focus of the driver from the road. Hence, you will be driving distracted when you are doing these things.  

Does eating while driving break the distracted driving laws in Canada?

A majority of the provinces in Canada are not very strict regarding the laws relating to eating while driving.

But there are some places in Canada where eating behind the wheel is penalized. For example, the distracted driving laws of Ontario are much stricter when limiting snacking behind the wheel.

The distracted laws of Canada in most regions do not consider snacking illegal hence it is not considered breaking the law. But in some instances, if you are caught by the police or engage in some sort of accident while eating behind the wheel then it will be judged on a case by case method. This means the law officials will investigate and judge whether you were distracted or not during the act of eating. If the police decide you were distracted because of the snack you were taking, then you will be fined. The fine could be well around $1,000 if they deem it necessary.

Even though the laws do not find snacking behind the wheel illegal it does not mean we should do it. If you are hungry pull up somewhere safe and eat because it is important to keep yourself and others safe.

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Is driving with your pet illegal?

In most cases the distracted driving laws in Canada are not very strict regarding driving with your pet on your lap. But there are other laws in some provinces which you may break when driving distracted. For example, in some provinces you would be violating the driving while control is obstructed or driving while your view is obstructed laws which are part of the MVA (Motor Vehicle Act). In British Columbia, if you break any of these obstruction laws you will be fined around $100 and three demerit points will be added to your record. There are similar laws like this in other provinces which make it illegal to keep your pet on your lap when behind the wheel.

If you need to travel alone with your pet, to make them stay in one place you can buy a harness for pets or special seats which are made specifically to help pets ride comfortably.

If you are still not sure what counts as distracted driving here are some pointers for you:

  • Talking on the phone while driving is counted as distracted driving. There are lots of rules and laws in place in different parts of Canada to prevent you from talking on the phone while driving.
  • Setting your GPS while driving is also considered distracted driving. You will most probably take your eyes off the road when setting up your GPS which is a very irresponsible thing to do while driving. There are different laws in place which penalize you for programming your GPS while driving.
  • Texting or emailing while on your phone is a major form of distraction. This type of act while behind the wheel is very reckless. It is important for you to keep your eyes on the road. Distracted driving laws in Canada make it illegal for you to text when driving. If you are caught violating these rules you will be charged with a fine.
  • Reading when driving is also a form of distraction. It is important for you to keep 100% of your attention on the road. Otherwise, you are putting yourself and others at risk.
  • Watching videos while driving is a form of visual distraction. These types of distractions take your eyes and attention off the road completely. I do not know why a person in their right mind would watch videos on their phone while driving. But it has happened and is mentioned in the distracted driving laws in Canada.
  • We already covered snacking behind the wheel. Again, eating behind the wheel may not be illegal or violate the distracted laws in all Canadian provinces. This does not mean it isn’t a bad practice. It is important that we become responsible for our own actions.
  • Grooming may not seem like a very distracting thing to do right? Well, try thinking about it like this. If you take a look at your rear-view mirror to fix your hair, this takes your eyes off the road which you should not be doing in the first place.
  • Smoking or vaping while driving is one of most common forms of distraction while driving. I see people often on the road smoking or vaping while driving. The problem with smoking or vaping is they produce smoke which obstructs your view of the road. Thus, it is advisable to take smoking or vaping breaks when driving. Just pull up somewhere safe and finish your smoke then continue driving again.

What are the distracted driving laws in your province?

It is important that you know the distracted driving laws in Canada for your province. The more information you have about the distracted driving laws of your province the easier it is for you to avoid violating them.

​Province or Territory        ​Fine(s)       ​Demerit Points    
​British Columbia*​$543 – first offence $888 – second offence4
​Alberta**   ​$2873
​Saskatchewan      $2804
Manitoba$6725
Ontario*$615 – $30003-6
Quebec​$300 – $6005
​New Brunswick   ​$172.50      3
​Nova Scotia$233.95 – first offence $348.95 – second offence $578.95 – subsequent offences4
Prince Edward Island$572 – $12755
Newfoundland and Labrador$100 – $4004
Yukon​$5003
Northwest Territories***​$322 – $6443
NunavutNoneNone

*British Columbia and Ontario ban the use of hand-held communications and electronic entertainment devices while driving.

**Alberta expands its legislation beyond handheld electronic devices to include other forms of driver distraction, including eating, drinking, reading, writing and personal grooming.

***The fine increases to $644 for distracted driving in school and construction zones.

Note: In British Columbia and Saskatchewan, drivers in the graduated licensing program are prohibited from using hand-held and hands-free devices. 

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: British Columbia

More than 25 percent of the vehicle collision accidents happening in British Columbia are caused by drivers who are distracted. Research has shown that when a driver is having a conversation with other passengers in the car, it is far less distracting then when the driver is talking on the phone. Talking on the phone is one of the most distracting things you can do while driving.

If you are engaging in some form of activity which reduces your attention from the road, it could be any form of distraction like it could be using the phone while driving or it could be something on the outside like watching the beautiful scenery while driving. All of this reduces the driver’s ability to focus on the road. The MVA (Motor Vehicle Act) strictly forbids any driver from using their mobile phones while driving. You are allowed to use the hands-free mode as long as your phone is mounted, and your eyes are on the road.

If you are a driver who just passed their driving test in British Columbia, you are not allowed to use any sort of electronic device when driving. This is because novice drivers are not allowed to use any sort of electronic device in any shape or form. Yes, this even means you are not permitted to use your phone or another electronic device even in hands-free mode.

Drivers who get caught using their phones or any other type of electronic device while behind the wheel will result in them violating the distracting laws of British Columbia. If you violate the law for the first time, then you will get a fine of about $370 and you will get four points added to your ICBC penalty premium program. These four points can add another $200 which takes your fine closer to $600.

If you are caught violating the same rule again then you will get an increase in the ICBC premium points. This will result in more added premium points, hence increasing the total fine amount.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Ontario

Did you know the fatalities resulting from driving distracted have doubled now since the early 2000s? This is most likely caused due to smart phones, which distract us from reality most of our waking hours.

The distracted law of Ontario clearly states that you are not allowed to use any form of handheld device while driving. It could be your phone or other type of handheld electronic device. Ontario is very strict in making sure that your attention is 100% on the road.

You are not even allowed to use your smart phone or other electronic device when stopping at a red light. The fine for violating the distracted laws of Ontario varies but it usually falls in the range between $600 to $3,000. Plus, you will get three to six demerit points based on your case.

If you are violating the rules for the first time, you are able to dispute the ticket. And if you lose the dispute, the amount for the fine increases to a thousand dollars.

When violating the distracted laws your second time you will be getting a ticket which amounts to $615 plus you will get six demerit points. Also, your driving license will also be suspended for a week. If you dispute the ticket it can increase the fine to $2,000 if you lose.

Your third time violating the distracted driving laws will result in a $615 fine plus six demerit points. You will also have your license suspended for 30 days. Disputing and losing will increase the fine to $3,000.

Novel drivers caught breaking the distracting driving laws of Ontario will have a longer suspension and there is a possibility of their license being revoked.

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If there is an accident and the driver was caught breaking the distracted driving laws, then the driver will be charged with careless driving. This could end in the driver losing their license for two years. Plus, in some scenarios there could be jail time involved.

You are allowed to use devices hands-free when driving. If the GPS screen is built into the dashboard then you are allowed to use it while driving.  

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Alberta

Alberta strictly prohibits drivers from using any type of mobile phones. You are not allowed to text or email while behind the wheel. It is also not permissible for you to use any type of camera or audio players while driving. Plus, you cannot program your GPS or groom yourself while driving your vehicle. These are all part of the distracted driving laws of Alberta.

It does not matter how good your driving skills are, if you are caught violating the distracted driving laws of Alberta you will have to pay a penalty which is around $280 and it will also add three demerit points to your record.

If you have a record of breaking the distracted driving laws of Alberta even once, it will be much harder for you to get full coverage for your insurance. For you to get full coverage for your car insurance you will have to pay higher rates, which is well above the market price. People who are convicted of distracted driving pay as much as 20% more for insurance than normal people.

You will be able to use your mobile phone or any other electrical device as long as it is in hands-free mode. Or you can use one of your earphones to talk while driving, which is permissible. Also, the laws allow you to drink or eat; you can smoke and talk with passengers of your car. These are all activities that are permissible in the distracted driving laws of Alberta.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Saskatchewan

One of the top three causes of death from vehicle collisions in Saskatchewan is distracted driving. As per the Saskatchewan Traffic Safety Act it is not permissible for you to hold or use any type of mobile or handheld electronic gadgets while driving on a highway.

Some other ways you can break the distracted driving laws are by eating while being behind the wheel, also by using a GPS system while driving. Plus, you are not allowed to read maps or groom yourself while driving. Mainly, your eyes should always be on the road when driving. The distracted laws in this province are so strict that you could be fined for talking with a passenger if there is some sort of collision.

The cost of distracted driving tickets has been increased from $280 to around $600. This increase in fine was implemented in February 2020. Plus, with the fine there will be four demerit points, which will be added to your record. If you are caught violating the distracted law more than once the ticket amount will increase, plus it can cause your vehicle to be impounded, which would cost you much more.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Manitoba

As per the Manitoba traffic laws on distracted driving, if a person who is driving is caught using their phone or some other form of handheld electronic device, then it would result in a three-day license suspension. If the driver violates the same distracted driving law within the next ten years, they will get their license suspended for seven days.

There will also be a fine of about $680 and five demerit points will be added to their record. The highest number of vehicle collisions in Manitoba was caused because the drivers were distracted. Hence, the distracted driving laws of Manitoba are made very strict to minimize accidents from distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Quebec

Distracted driving laws in Quebec encourage drivers to use hands-free devices while driving. Like if you need to call or talk while driving you can do it in hands-free mode so that both of your eyes stay on the road and you won’t hinder your focus. If drivers are caught violating the distracted laws in Quebec it could result in getting a fine anywhere between the range of $300 to $600. Along with the fine there will be demerit points added to the driver’s record.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: New Brunswick

The distracted laws of this province are pretty much similar. You are not allowed to use any type of cellphones or electronic devices while driving. The only way you are able to use one is if they are in a hands-free mode. Also, if you violate the distracted driving laws then you will be charged with a fine of about $180 and three more demerit points will be added to your record.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Nova Scotia

If you are caught breaking the distracted driving laws in Nova Scotia, then you will be charged $233 if it is the first time and if you are caught doing the same thing three times then you will be fined $600. Plus, there will be four demerit points which will be added to your record.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Prince Edward Island

You are not allowed to use any type of electronic device while driving for any purpose unless it is in hands-free mode. The fine for distracted driving is between $570 to $1280. Plus, there will be four demerit points added to your record.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Newfoundland and Labrador

The distracted laws here are pretty much the same with other regions of Canada. You will be fined from $100 to $400 depending on the scenario plus 4 demerit points will also be added.

Distracted Driving Laws in Canada: Northwest Territories

They have banned the use of mobile phones and portable electronic devices behind the wheel. If someone is caught breaking the distracted law, they may pay a fine of about $600.

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Conclusion

The distracted driving laws in Canada are in place to help keep us safe and aware while on the road. It is our job to abide by the distracted driving laws in Canada to keep ourselves and others safe.

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February 21, 2021
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