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Texting While Driving Is Considered Illegal In Ontario And Is The Cause Of Many Accidents - Australia Is Using AI and Cameras to Combat It

December 31, 2019, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving in Ontario is a causal factor in many automobile accidents. According to provincial statistics it has surpassed impaired driving as the number one killer on the roads. It is preventable. Enforcement is very difficult though as there are far more drivers on the roads than police watching them.

Why drivers continue to take this risk is not well understood. It is particularly dangerous to drive while distracted because taking your attention off of the road means you have less time to react, you are already exercising poor judgement, drivers tent to overreact as they are surprised, and the risk of injury or death while driving distracted increases significantly.

The BBC recently reported on a novel solution to the problem in Australia. It will be interesting to watch how the experiment works, and perhaps to introduce the technology in Canada which is similar to Australia in terms of size and population.

AI cameras to catch texting Australian drivers

A man using his phone while driving

  • 2 December 2019
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) cameras capable of detecting drivers who are using their mobiles illegally have been activated in Australia.
  • The cameras were launched by New South Wales (NSW) Transport on 1 December.
  • Drivers spotted by the AI during its first three months of use will receive a warning letter but after that they could face a fine.
  • A trial of the tool in the first half of 2019 successfully detected 100,000 drivers using a mobile illegally.
  • "Some people have not got the message about using their phones legally and safely," said Andrew Constance, minister for roads.
  • "If they think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk without consequence they are in for a rude shock."

The detection network will be expanded to 45 AI-equipped cameras by 2023, according to NSW Transport.

The authority said it believed the detection system was a world first.

It uses high-definition cameras to take photos of the front-row cabin space of vehicles, in "all weather conditions".

An illustration showing detection of a driver using their phone"Images that the automated system considers likely to contain a driver illegally using a mobile phone are verified by authorised personnel," NSW said on a web page about the cameras.

Following the three-month warning period, drivers caught by the cameras will receive penalty points and a A$344 (£180) fine, or a A$457 fine in a school zone.

In the UK, Thames Valley and Hampshire police launched a system earlier this year that can detect mobile phone signals coming from road vehicles.

However, it cannot tell whether drivers or passengers are using the phones and so is not being used as an enforcement tool.

 

 

It is illegal to use your phone, smart watch, or other mobile device while driving in Ontario. This page from the MTO outlines distracted driving, it's penalties, and some statistics of harm it causes.

Ontario’s distracted driving laws apply to the use of hand-held communication/entertainment devices and certain display screens.

While you are driving, including when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light, it is illegal to:

  • use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial – you can only touch a device to call 911 in an emergency
  • use a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console
  • view display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video
  • program a GPS device, except by voice commands

You are allowed to use hands-free wireless communications devices with an earpiece, lapel button or Bluetooth. You can view GPS display screens as long as they are built into your vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted on the dashboard.

Other actions such as eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading and reaching for objects are not part of Ontario’s distracted driving law. However, you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

Distracted driving statistics

In Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.

Ontario data on collisions from 2013 show:

  • one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour
  • a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road

Penalties for distracted driving

The easiest way to avoid penalties for distracted driving is to not use a hand-held device when you’re behind the wheel.

It’s against the law to use hand-held communication (e.g. your phone) and electronic entertainment devices (e.g. DVD player, e-reader) while driving.

In fact, simply holding a phone or other device while driving is against the law.

You can use:

  • hands-free device (e.g. Bluetooth) but only to turn it on and off
  • mounted device (e.g. phone, GPS) as long as it is secure  – not moving around while driving

If convicted, the penalty you face depends on the kind of licence you hold and how long you’ve been driving.

Drivers with A to G licences

If you have an A, B, C, D, E, F, G and/or M licence, you’ll face bigger penalties when convicted of distracted driving:

  • First conviction:
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • three demerit points
    • 3-day suspension
  • Second conviction
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 7-day suspension
  • Third and any further conviction(s)
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 30-day suspension

Novice drivers

If you hold a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences. But you won’t receive any demerit points.

Instead of demerit points you’ll face longer suspensions:

  • a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
  • a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
  • cancellation of your licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction
    • to get your licence back you’d have to redo the GLS program

Careless driving

You could face more charges – for careless driving – if you endanger other people because of any kind of distraction. This includes distraction caused by both hand-held (e.g., phone) or hands-free (e.g., Bluetooth) devices.

If convicted of careless driving, you may receive:

  • six demerit points
  • fines up to $2,000 and/or
  • a jail term of six months
  • a licence suspension of up to two years

You could even be charged with dangerous driving – a criminal offence that carries heavier penalties, including jail terms of up to 10 years for causing bodily harm or up to 14 years for causing death.

Tips to avoid distracted driving

Use any of these tips to avoid distracted driving and its penalties:

  • turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before you get in the car
    • put it in the glove compartment (lock it, if you have to) or in a bag on the back seat
  • before you leave the house, record an outgoing message that tells callers you’re driving and you’ll get back to them when you’re off the road
    • some apps can block incoming calls and texts, or send automatic replies to people trying to call or text you
  • ask a passenger to take a call or respond to a text for you
    • if you must respond, or have to make a call or send a text, carefully pull over to a safe area
  • silence notifications that tempt you to check your phone

Calling 911

In an emergency, you can use your phone to call 911, but be sure to pull off the road to a safe area to make the call.

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Automobile Accident Benefits, Car Accidents

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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