Personal Injury

Distracted driving penalties harsh but necessary: Orlando

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

Ontario’s new distracted driving penalties may be tough, but not in comparison with the cost to “injured innocents,” Toronto critical injury lawyer Dale Orlando tells

Under changes that came into effect on New Year’s Day, distracted drivers now face a three-day licence suspension, a fine of up to $1,000 — more than double the previous penalty — and three demerit points, CBC News reports.

Second and third offences within five years will see fines rise to up to $2,000 along with a seven-day licence suspension and six demerit points.

“I agree with the increase in fines. The cost pales in comparison with the price paid by the victims of distracted drivers,” says Orlando, partner with McLeish Orlando LLP. “We see what happens to the innocently injured. The problem is real and rampant — the impact on victims and their families is much greater than the fines that are levied.”

The changes “now make Ontario the toughest jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to distracted driving,” he says.

“If you accept the fact that accidents caused by distracted drivers are on par with those who are impaired, then the increase in penalties is appropriate,” Orlando says. “If you look at the way impaired driving is treated now compared to 30 years ago, harsher penalties have been effective. The rates of impaired driving are way down.”

He says it is not uncommon to see multiple examples of distracted driving every day and “whatever has been done until now has not been effective.”

New drivers face the toughest penalties under the new provisions, reports CBC News. Drivers with a graduated licence will be levied the same fines as experienced drivers but can also receive a 30-day suspension for a first conviction. A second offence can bring a 90-day suspension.

Orlando says it’s essential that young drivers obey the rules of the road early because it’s often more difficult “to teach old dogs new tricks."

“There is a reason we have a graduated driver's licensing system. Young drivers tend to be involved in more incidents and can be less careful,” he says.

"I think the steeper fines will be a greater deterrent for young drivers,” Orlando adds.

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