Both the government and the courts in Ontario are taking an increasingly critical stance on distracted driving. Two recent events help illustrate this view, as well as point to the direction and enforcement of future laws in the area.
First, although already illegal, distracted driving in Ontario does not require, as is the case in other provinces, the deduction of demerit points. This may however be about to change. Ontario’s Minister of Transportation has stated that stiffer laws and regulations are imminent, and demerit points may well be within the package of anti-distracted driving measures being introduced in the near future.*
Second, a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in a recent distracted driving case means that just the act of holding a cell phone in one’s hand when driving– that is, without using it to actively talk or text – falls within the sphere of activities described as distracted driving.
The result being that a cell phone in a driver’s hand will result in the person holding it to be fined under the current legislative regime. In a few months’ time, by application of the first rule, demerit points could also be applicable. Furthermore, the court’s strict reading in this instance will also undoubtedly guide how similar “grey-area” cases are decided in the future.
Implications in Personal Injury Cases
Distracted driving, and the expanding definition of the term, will be a factor when determining fault in personal injury cases in the future. This will be a benefit to the victims of distracted driving whom are no less affected by whether the driver of the injury-causing vehicle was simply looking at a cell-phone or using it to communicate with others.