Ontario passes legislation to improve road safety

ONTARIO— Last week, Ontario passed the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act to help ensure that the province’s roads are among the safest in North America.

In order to reduce collisions, injuries and fatalities on Ontario’s roads, the new act will: increase fines for distracted driving from the current range of $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000, assigning three demerit points upon conviction, and escalating sanctions on convictions for novice drivers; apply current alcohol-impaired sanctions to drivers who are drug impaired; introduce additional measures to address repeat offenders of alcohol impaired driving; require drivers to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road before proceeding at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers; increase fines and demerits for drivers who ‘door’ cyclists, and require all drivers to maintain a minimum distance of one metre when passing cyclists where possible; help municipalities collect unpaid fines by expanding licence plate denial for drivers who do not pay certain Provincial Offences Act fines; and allow a broader range of qualified medical professionals to identify and report medically unfit drivers, and clarify the types of medical conditions to be reported.

The new fines and measures will come into force over the coming months. The new legislation builds on action that the province has already taken to improve road safety, including making booster seats mandatory, ensuring every person wears a seatbelt, introducing the Graduated Licencing System for novice drivers, establishing stiffer penalties for aggressive driving and excess speeding, bringing in tougher impaired driving laws, and banning hand-held devices while driving, a press release states.

“Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America and this new legislation is intended to keep it that way,” said Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation. “I look forward to continued collaboration with our law enforcement and other dedicated road safety partners to implement these measures.”

According to figures from the government, if current collision trends continue, fatalities from distracted driving may exceed those from drinking and driving by 2016 and over 45 percent of drivers killed in Ontario were found to have drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol in their system.

Pedestrians represent about one in five motor vehicle-related fatalities on Ontario roads — 46 per cent of which occurred at intersections.