Today's Trucking
opinions Kim E. Stoll

The Cost of Distractions

Posted: June 1, 2018 by Kim E. Stoll

Drivers who text or have other interactions with cellphones are eight times more likely to cause an accident. According to CAA, simply conversing on a mobile device — whether hands-free or hand-held — makes drivers four times more likely to be in a crash. And one in every four accidents is caused by people texting. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half an hour.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has identified dangers relating specifically to trucking as well. It found that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event such as a near crash or unintentional lane deviation are 23.2 times greater for commercial vehicle drivers who text, when compared to those who do not. Texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At highway speeds, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field – including the end zones – without looking at the road, the administration observes.

In Canada, all 10 provinces and two of the three territories have some form of handheld cellphone or distracted driving legislation in place.  The fines vary, and penalties include three to five demerit points.

In Ontario, truckers can view and use the display screens on mobile data terminals and other logistical tracking and dispatch devices.  There is also an exemption for commercial, public transit and public function drivers using two-way or CB radios until Jan. 1, 2021.

It is generally illegal to operate handheld devices when driving in the province, whether they are smartphones, other communication devices or electronic entertainment devices.  It is also against the law to view display screens that are unrelated to driving, including cellphones, smartphones, ipads, unmounted GPS units, music-playing devices, laptops or DVD players.  Hand mics and walkie-talkies must be wired in or mounted.

Any scrolling on a hands-free device, or typing information into a GPS unit, must be done before driving.

To use a device while in a vehicle, you must be pulled off the roadway or be lawfully parked, although pulling over on a 400 Series highway can only be done in emergencies.

Related penalties under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act include:

  • a $400 fine
  • a victim surcharge and court fee of $90, if settled out of court
  • a fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
  • three demerit points applied to your driving record

On Jan. 1, 2019, fines increase for second offences (up to $2,000) and third or further offences (up to $3,000). Licence suspensions will be added as well — with three days for a first offence, seven days for a second offence, and 30 days for each offence after that.

Careless driving charges are levied under the Highway Traffic Act, while dangerous driving charges are under the Criminal Code, depending on the endangerment or damages involved. Licence suspensions for careless driving convictions are up to two years and include six demerit points. Dangerous driving convictions carry prison terms of up to five or 10 years (where bodily harm is caused) or up to 14 years (where death is caused) and a five-year licence suspension.

A CVOR holder can also be charged for offences committed when drivers are operating their vehicles, exposing them to points. Points are assigned depending on the charge and conviction under various pieces of legislation. Moving violations generally have five-point penalties. Too many CVOR points, of course, may trigger audits and possibly more charges under various headings — putting a CVOR certificate at risk.

Kim E. Stoll is a partner at Fernandes Hearn LLP, and can be reached at 416-203-9509, or emailing She’s on Twitter as @KimEStoll. This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. 


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