We have all been behind those cars that weave or slow down unnecessarily. The initial thought is that the driver might be impaired. Yet, when we pass them, we see that they're talking on their phone or texting or using their GPS. And that distraction could be dangerous – very dangerous.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road in front of them. They could be using their GPS or talking or texting on their cell phone. They could also be eating, drinking, reading, or even adjusting their radio tuner. No matter the activity, distracted driving can cause unnecessary harm to the pedestrians and drivers that share our roads.

According to the CAA, distracted drivers are eight times more likely to get into an accident. The National Safety Council reports that 26 percent of all car crashes involve phone use – including those that are hands-free. And the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety claims that you are four times more likely to be in an accident if you are talking on your phone, whether it be handheld or hands-free.

Yet, people are not getting the message and continue to drive while chatting on their phones. They also continue to program their GPS while driving, among other activities. Distracted driving is a serious issue, to be sure. The National Highway Safety Administration stated that distracted driving was the cause in 10 percent of fatal crashes and 18 percent of injuries due to car accidents.

To make sure the public finally gets the message, harsher penalties for distracted drivers came into effect on January 1, 2019 through the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act.

Under the new law, a first-time offense of distracted driving will result in a three-day license suspension, a fine of up to $1,000.00 and three demerit points if convicted. If convicted within five years of a second offense, the fines and demerit points double and the driver loses their license automatically for seven days. If there is a third conviction, the fines triple, they lose six demerit points as well as their license for 30 days.

The laws are even tougher for drivers with G1 and G2 licenses. They face a 30-day license suspension on the first conviction and a 90-day suspension on the second conviction. A third conviction can result in a loss of their license.

To ensure drivers are aware of the new penalties, the Toronto Police announced they'll be doing a number of blitzes in downtown Toronto; the first one began on January 14, 2019. Officers will be on bikes and riding on streetcars, peering into cars to catch those using their phones below their steering wheel, thinking no one can see them. As for those who enjoy drinking coffee while driving, fear not – the police have said they won't be targeted.

Let's just hope that, with these tougher laws and police efforts in place, drivers will be encouraged to change their destructive behavior once and for all.

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