TORONTO – New Ontario road safety regulations come into effect Tuesdays and provincial officials are reminding motorists that you can face hefty fines if they are disobeyed.
On Sept. 1, amendments to the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act include increased fines for distracted driving, a requirement to maintain a one-metre distance when passing cyclists and the inclusion of tow trucks in the Slow Down, Move Over law.
In July, the CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) launched an awareness program to remind drivers of the new fines and regulations.
Minister of Transportation Stephen Del Duca addressed media on Tuesday saying he is focused on making his message clear: distracted driving will not be tolerated.
“If current trends continue, fatalities from distracted driving will exceed those from drinking and driving by 2016,” said Del Duca.
“Research tells us that a driver who uses a cellphone while driving is four times more likely to be involved in a crash.”
Fines for distracted drivers will increase from a $280 minimum to $490, plus three demerit points.
“Right now there’s still a level of cultural acceptability that is causing people to still break the law when they are behind the wheel and texting,” said Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders.
“This is going to take time. It’s going to be generational. But we have to start now.”
Fines for opening a door into the path of a cyclist will increase from between $60 — $500 to $365 plus three demerit points. Motorists must also now leave a one-metre distance when passing bicycles.
Fines will increase from $20 to $110 for bicyclists who do not use a light and reflectors or reflective material.
READ MORE: The growing epidemic of distracted driving
The bill also requires that drivers wait until pedestrians completely cross the road at school crossings and at crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights.
Slow Down, Move Over legislation now includes tow trucks stopped at the side of the highway with their amber lights flashing.
The fine for drivers who don’t slow down or move over is $490 and the penalty is three demerit points.
WATCH: As of September 1, drivers caught texting behind the wheel can expect fines that total $490 and three demerit points
“It’s not acceptable when you are behind the wheel of a car and all of the dangerous circumstances that could exist,” said Del Duca.
“You need to keep you hands on the wheel, you need to keep your eyes focused on the road, you need to keep you mind focused on the road and be aware of your surrounds and get where you are going safely and most importantly get back home to your loved ones, as well.”
For novice drivers – people driving with a G1, G2, M1, M2 class license – penalties are more severe.
INVESTIGATION: Toronto cyclists’ ‘dooring zone’
On the first conviction, new driver will have their license suspended for 30 days. A second conviction would see a license suspension for 90 days. If a novice driver is caught distracted driving for a third time, their license will be cancelled and the driver will return to start of graduated license program.
Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League said during an awareness event a week ago that this an appropriate evolution of the distracted driving law.
“Drivers have to pay more attention. I don’t want a two second distraction to result in flying off a bicycle or being injured inside and intersection,” Patterson said. “This is an unsafe practice that results in carnage, injury and death.”
WATCH: Two new little known driving laws will soon come into effect in Ontario. Cindy Pom received a visual demonstration from police.