Bill 31 was passed by the government in June 2015. You may have been following in the news regarding Bill 31 that changes to penalties were pending for specific Highway Traffic Act offences. Those changes are now in effect as of September 1st, 2015. These changes affect Drive With Handheld Communication Device (distracted driving), passing a bicyclist,school crossing and pedestrian crossovers, and light requirements for bicyclists.
Highway Traffic Act (HTA) section 78.1 pertains to the use of handheld electronic communication devices:
78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
The financial penalty for a conviction under HTA s.78.1 has now been elevated to a set fine of $490 with possible fees reaching $1000. A conviction for ‘distracted driving’ has now increased from the previous 0 demerit point penalty to a new 3 demerit point penalty. Novice drivers such as G1 and G2 licence holders now face a possible 30 day licence suspension. While safe driving on Ontario roads is always in the best interests of all Ontarians, the new changes to this section of law certainly put a much greater degree of penalty in play to change driving behaviour.
Bicyclists have now received more protection under the Highway Traffic Act from being hit by opening car doors (commonly referred to as ‘dooring.’). The financial penalty for ‘dooring’ a bicyclist is now a set fine of $365, but could reach as high as $1000. A conviction will now also result in a 3 demerit point penalty against the defendant’s driving record.
Ontario bicyclists have not only historically faced the threat of running into an unexpectedly opened car door, but also the threat of being hit or pushed off the road by drivers passing too closely. Ontario driver’s are now required to maintain a minimum 1 meter distance from a bicyclist when passing. Failure to do so may result in a $110 fine and two demerit points.
Not all new changes to the Highway Traffic Act in protecting Ontario bicyclists are targeted at the drivers of motor vehicles. Ontario bicyclists are now required to use reflectors and a light or face a court fine of $110.
Previous Highway Traffic Law mandated that Ontario drivers in the rightmost lane must change lanes if safe to do so when passing a police cruiser with activated emergency lights. This area of law has now been expanded to include tow trucks stopped at roadside.
It is in everyone’s interest to drive safely on our Ontario roadways. A collision, injury, or conviction can have consequences that can last years, if not a entire lifetime. If you have have been charged under the Highway Traffic Act or Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act it is important to know your rights and what options are available to you in protecting your interests. OTD Legal offers a no-cost, no obligation review of charges to help defendants make an informed decision on how to proceed after being charged by the police. I, or one of my staff, would be happy to assist you via our toll-free number at 1-844-647-6869 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.