- September 13, 2016
- by WILL DAVIDSON LLP
Summer is winding down which means kids are back to school. Each year drivers are reminded to slow down and pay attention to children who get on and off school buses or may dart out in front of cars unexpectedly.
With all the attention surrounding this topic, distracted driving continues to be one of the top causes of accidents in Ontario. Legislators have responded to this by increasing penalties and restrictions. Operating handheld communication devices or an electronic entertainment device while driving is illegal. When using cell phones, you are required to use an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device along with voice-activated dialing or if using a GPS the device should be mounted or secured. For a portable GPS, the required information must be inputted before you start driving. All of this may seem repetitive but for some drivers, a reminder now can prevent a fatality later.
Distracted Driving in School Zones
Children are often easily distracted and can run out into the street without warning, especially when there is no sidewalk. Also, depending on the age of the child they may not adequately judge the vehicle speed and therefore may attempt to cross streets too close to oncoming vehicles. Keep in mind children are often chatting with friends, listening to music with earphones in and may not be able to hear an approaching vehicle. It is imperative that drivers are alert at all times when driving through a designated school zone, drivers should slow down and abide by the mandated speed limit of 40km/ hour, regardless of the speed limit for the rest of the street.
How to Minimize Distracted Driving
There are ways to minimize distracted driving and avoid collisions, especially when driving near a school. First be aware that you are entering a school zone. A school zone is easily identified by a five-sided sign that has a fluorescent yellow/green background with black symbols. As soon as you notice it, slow down if you are driving above 40km/hour, drive with extra caution and watch for children.
Second, always respect the right of way of a school bus. When a school bus begins to flash its lights, and the stop sign emerges, all traffic from behind and in front of the school in the oncoming lanes must stop. It is also important to remember to maintain a distance of at least 20 metres. If a distracted driver doesn’t slow down, they are likely going to be reported to the police. In addition to the penalties for distracted driving, the penalty for illegally passing a school bus can range from $400 to $2000 and six demerit points for a first time offender. For subsequent offenders, this fine can increase from $1,000-$4,000 and include jail time.
Drivers should also keep in mind outside of school hours when travelling in a school zone to obey the posted speed signs. Students could be leaving extra-curricular activities, or the school might be hosting an event. Also be aware that increased fines commonly apply when speeding in school zones, whether or not pedestrians are crossing at the time.
Fines for Distracted Drivers
In September 2015 the fines for distracted driving came into effect just in time for back to school. The fines were raised significantly costing offenders fees of $300-$1000 along with three demerit points. This increase more than doubled from the past threshold ranges of $60-$500, with no demerit points. These changes were a result of the passage of Bill 31, Transportations Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), which amended The Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This bill also included a requirement that drivers must wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road at school crossings and at crosswalks with pedestrian operated crossing lights, no longer yielding just half the roadway as previously required. The legislation also included stiffer penalties for new drivers on the road. Adding distracted driving convictions for novice drivers that will result in escalating sanctions, from a 30-day suspension, to a 90-day suspension, to a license cancellation where the novice driver must return to the start of the graduated licensing program.
What if You Have a Personal Injury Claim
Proving that distracted driving was the cause of an accident is often difficult, as there is often no way to prove a device was actually in the driver’s hand. However, if a pedestrian is hit by a driver, a reverse onus is created by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, outlined in section 193(1). It states if a pedestrian is injured by a driver, the driver must prove he or she was not negligent in the accident. In other words, the driver must establish in court that he or she acted reasonably and properly in the circumstances. In designated school zones a driver is held to a higher standard and is expected to exercise more caution when operating a motor vehicle.
How Can a Will Davidson LLP Personal Injury Lawyer Help You
The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP have decades of experience representing the victims and families of those that have incurred injuries or lost loved ones in accidents caused by distracted drivers. We offer a complimentary consultation and a no-win, no fee policy. Our lawyers are conveniently located in Toronto, Oakville, Burlington, Orillia, Midland, Huntsville, Lindsay, Markham, Whitby and Bowmanville. Call a Will Davidson LLP personal injury lawyer at 1.866.840.9002 to speak with one of our lawyers about your potential personal injury claim.