Legislative changes to Communication Devices (Cell Phone Tickets)
Recently, In December of 2017 the Ontario Liberal Government toughened up the penalties for Drive hand-held communication device charges. The ticket would formerly cost you $490 and 3 demerit points. Now, the ticket will cost you a minimum of $500 + Court Costs, and Victim Fine Surchage, which should surpass the $600 mark for the total fine on the ticket. Additionally, the ticket will now carry a 3 day suspension upon your first conviction. A 7 day suspension on a subsequent conviction, and 30 day suspension on a second subsequent conviction.
The government has also put limitations on what resolutions are available at Court. In Richmond Hill and Newmarket Traffic Court, there was a possibility of resolving a s. 78.1(1) Drive hand-held communication device ticket to an owner violation charge under s. 207. The s. 207 resolution would not affect a Defendant’s driving record, and would just carry a fine. Most Defendant’s would accept this resolution to avoid a trial. This system would allow the courts to resolve matters, and free-up court time, while still sending the message of general and specific deterrence to the Defendant and the Public.
So what does this all mean? Well first off, since the resolution of 207 is off the table, it will give Defendant’s less options to consider. Will you be able to get a 0 demerit point resolution? Maybe, but it will be much more difficult than before. The likelihood now is will be seeing more and more Drive hand-held communication device Trials being conducted because of the new suspension penalties.
The new penalties come in to effect on January 1, 2019
Wynne’s Ontario Liberals are proposing tougher penalties for Careless Driving offences, where a death has occurred. The new penalties will include a significant increase to the maximum fines, an increase in licence suspension, and longer imprisonment. The Toronto Star reported that the increases are a result of the increased driving fatalities that have occurred in Toronto.
Imprisonment up to 6 months (Only under Part 3 proceedings)
More changes to the Legislation
Careless Driving is not the only change that may occur if the law passes and receives royal ascent. Distracted driving, and hand held communication device charges could also have their penalties toughened up. Cell phone tickets could reach up to $3,000 in fines, and carry a 30 day suspension.
Pro’s and Con’s
Will tougher penalties save lives on Ontario’s roads? The proposed legislation may benefit road safety, but some of the newest legislation has had the opposite affect, and has created a recipe for dangerous situations. Distracted driving laws, and the tougher penalties that have been imposed over the last several years have caused some motorists to use their phones in their laps, out of sight from potential law enforcers which is considered an even greater distraction. HOV lane changes, and the prohibition of not being able to switch lanes, has caused many motorists to make consecutive lane changes in one movement in order for the motorists to make their exit.
Road safety might only be served through lengthy suspensions, but I do not see fines and imprisonment having a positive affect for preventing future accidents. Most defendant’s of fatality matters, are suffering from tremendous emotional stress from being involved in an accident, and to add to that stress with extremely tough penalties may not remedy road safety. Most people I have defended don’t even want to drive anymore after being in a tragic accident, they are too emotionally distraught. A $50,000 won’t even go to the victim’s families, it goes to our Regional Governments. Furthermore, Careless Driving is seen as a “blanket charge”, which is laid in almost every accident situation, even in accident’s where clearly no one is at fault. So now the issue becomes in fatality accidents where maybe no one is at fault, the defendant is facing a greater wall to climb over, which may not be fair. Remember sometimes accidents are just accidents.