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Jan 16, 2020

6 min. read

Just over a year ago, Ontario introduced strict new penalties for distracted driving in a bid to combat what has become a scourge of the province’s roads.

The new penalties include a minimum fine of $615 plus a three-day licence suspension. Those sanctions were widely publicized, but one thing that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is the impact that a distracted driving conviction can have on your insurance premiums. Hint: it’s not good.

What insurance providers think about distracted driving convictions

“Licence suspensions are not looked upon favourably by insurers,” says Elliott Silverstein, the director of government relations and insurance with CAA South Central Ontario.

Insurance premiums are specific to each driver and generalizing about increases is difficult. But Silverstein says it’s safe to assume a driver will see their rates rise if they’re caught driving while distracted, an offence in Ontario that includes talking, texting, typing, dialing or emailing using cell phones or other hand-held communication and entertainment devices, while operating a motor vehicle.

“If you’re driving in any sort of way that leads to a conviction it will impact your insurance renewal,” he says.

In Ontario, deaths from distracted driving have doubled since 2000, a time period that, not surprisingly, coincides with the explosion of mobile phone use.

Distracted drivers aren’t always who you think they are

The worst offenders are motorists who commute 90-plus minutes and spend a lot of their time on the highway, says Silverstein, pointing to CAA data. And while some may think younger drivers are more prone to texting behind the wheel, that’s not the case, he adds.

“This is not restricted to one age group,” he says.

The penalties for a distracted driving conviction

To reduce distracted driving, Ontario introduced a host of new penalties on January 1, 2019. A first offence now garners a fine of $615, a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points. The penalties rise for second and third offences, topping out at a $3,000 fine, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension.

Novice drivers face a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction and for a third, their license will be cancelled, forcing them to start from scratch.

But that’s not all. If a motorist endangers other people on the road, they could also be charged with careless driving, which is punishable by six months in jail and a two-year license suspension.

The best way to reshape attitudes about distracted driving

Silverstein says the new penalties are an important step in discouraging distracted driving. But they need to be paired with awareness campaigns to make a real difference.

“We need to educate the drivers of today, and the drivers of tomorrow, about the dangers of distracted driving,” he says.

And much like the decades-long campaign against drunk driving, Silverstein says changing attitudes will be a long process.

“This isn’t something that’s going to be resolved in a few months. It will take a lot of time.”

Keep the conversation going

Click here to check out CAA’s resources and research about distracted driving.

Image credit: Courtesy of Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

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