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Drive distracted in Ontario and lose your licence

As of January 1, 2019, the maximum fine for distracted driving will double
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That text or phone call while driving could soon result in suspension of your driver's licence and a hefty fine.

As of January 1, 2019, the fines for distracted driving in Ontario will go from a maximum of $1,000 to a maximum of $2,000. 

A conviction for a first offence will lead to a three-day suspension. For a second offence, you lose your licence for seven days and a third conviction could mean a 30-day suspension plus six demerit points.

Central Region Media Relations spokesperson, Sgt. Peter Leon says anything that makes the roads safer has the approval of the OPP.

"Distracted driving is the number one cause of death on roadways so anything that can sustain life is welcome. Its all about awareness on the road. People need to remember its not just about them on the road. There are other people out there."

Currently, a distracted driving fine is $490 and three demerit points.

As for what is included in distracted driving, Leon says it's all-encompassing, from texting or using a hand-held device, but extends to eating, drinking a beverage, putting on makeup, dealing with disruptive children or pets, or fidgeting with the radio.

Leon says he's seen a lot in over 30 years of policing.

"The oddest thing I saw years ago was a motorist eating a bowl of cereal while driving and he had the newspaper propped up on the steering wheel reading it."

Officers do have discretion when it comes to what would warrant a ticket.

"We observe a lot of activity and have the discretion on how to respond. We have the option to offer a warning with some roadside education or write the ticket. It is really about going back to the basics of good driving skills. Use the mirrors and the signal indicators, and always be looking down the road to anticipate potential hazards. There are a lot more cars on the road now and so much happening around us. The best advice is if there is something you need to take care of in the vehicle, whether it be disruptive children in the backseat or an agitated pet or you need to make a call, pull off to the side and safely deal with it."

There were 341 fatalities on OPP patrolled highways in 2017. Eighty-three were blamed on inattentive driving.

When the new law comes into effect next year, officers won't be able to seize a driver's licence at roadside. A judge would have to order it suspended only after the driver is found guilty.

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