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What distracted driving means for your insurance

October 24th, 2019  |  Auto Insurance

If you’re convicted of distracted driving in Ontario, you risk higher rates when you renew your insurance.

A conviction can also result in fines, demerit points and suspensions. Even worse, it can have a life-changing impact on victims.

In the eyes of insurers, driving infractions are typically divided up into three categories: minor, major, and criminal, according to Insurance Hunter, an online brokerage owned by Hub International.

Often, a minor conviction will not result in a rate increase. But one major or criminal conviction normally will result in a rate hike, Insurance Hunter suggests.

So, what exactly constitutes distracted driving?

Not just electronics

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road constitutes distracted driving. It’s not just limited to the use of electronics. Doing any of the following activities while behind the wheel makes you guilty of distracted driving, whether you’re on the highway or stopped at a red light:

  • Holding an electronic device in your hands (hand-held communication while driving is against the law)
  • Using a cell phone to talk, text, check maps or switch playlists
  • Eating
  • Reading books or documents
  • Typing a destination into the GPS
  • Applying makeup

Stiffer penalties enacted

As of January 1, 2019, the existing fines and penalties for distracted drivers in Ontario increased. First time offenders face a fine increase up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day license suspension. It gets worse for those who are repeat offenders with fines up to $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension for third-time convictions.

For novice drivers who are still in the graduated licencing system, there is not a fine or demerit points lost but the time for a suspended licence is longer. First time offenders automatically receive a 30-day licence suspension, second time offenders will have a 90-day suspension and a third conviction will result in the driver’s licence being cancelled altogether.

One insurance professional at a recent symposium put on by the Insurance Institute of Canada suggested drivers needed to be shocked into understanding the consequences of distracted driving and should be required to meet with people who have lost family members or have become permanently injured.

“Maybe we need to get in their face and say, ‘Here is the result of texting. Here is what it did to this family. Here is what it did to these people’s lives,” she said.

According to provincial road statistics, deaths from collisions have doubled since 2000. One person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, and drivers using their phones are four times more likely to crash.

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