Articles Posted in Distracted Driving

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Today, the Federal Government called for tougher penalties, along with increased national uniformity when it comes to distracted driving. This call to arms was long overdue. Our personal injury lawyers can tell you that distracted driving has been a problem since at least 2004, if not earlier. Think of all of the car accidents that have happened since 2004 across Canada….Disturbing if you look at the stats. I suspect that a lot of those accidents were non-reported distracted driving accidents. Law enforcement just takes time to catch on to the trends. Distracted driving in many ways, is also more difficult to prove than drunk driving. More on that later.

Distracted driving is NOT drunk driving. Drunk driving is covered under the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s a uniform definition across the country.

Distracted driving on the other hand is defined and covered under provincial legislation. That means what’s described as distracted driving in one province, can be different in another province.

In Ontario, holding your mobile device, even if you’re not looking at it, while operating your vehicle can be interpreted as distracted driving:

In Ontario, it’s against the law to:

  • operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you’re driving
  • view display screens unrelated to your driving

Examples of hand-held devices include:

  • iPods and MP3 players
  • GPS
  • cell phones
  • smart phones
  • laptops
  • DVD players

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Using 5 P’s in to this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post has got to be some sort of record!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the mobile device game Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. Its received a record number of downloads since it launched, caused server crashes, and has resulted in actual physical crashes causing harm to people as well.

The game is a phenomenon to say the least.

If you’ve never seen or played the game, here is a very quick rundown. The game is played in augmented reality. While there have been augmented reality games in the past, Pokemon Go is the first game of its kind to really take off.

Players are followed in an augmented reality world via GPS maps, to find Pokemon. These are little cartoon like animals. Think giant scavenger hunt played out on a Google Map using your cell phone. There are physical landmarks in the game which are identified as Pokestops or Pokegyms. Players can track their footsteps on the map.

To give you an idea of the popularity of the game, let me share a story with you. The game in Canada was officially launched last week. When I left my office for lunch on Tuesday, over 10 random people I passed near my Toronto Office all had their heads down; deeply immersed in Pokemon Go.

Today, I am preparing this blog from my Kitchener-Waterloo Office. While walking around downtown Kitchener, I spotted yet again more than 10+ random people with their heads down, fully immersed in the world of Pokemon Go. The game has been picked up by millions of Canadians in a very short span of time.

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Goldfinger Personal Injury Law has four offices. Our first office opened in Toronto. This was followed by our second office in Peterborough. Our lawyers have long driven up and down a beautiful stretch of highway known has Highway #115. This is an Ontario Provincial Highway that connects Peterborough to Toronto by Highway 401. Highway 115 begins near Newcastle, and then proceeds north and ends at Highway 7 in Peterborough.

In the summer months, many cottage goers in the Kawarthas zoom along picturesque Highway 115 driving by quaint farmer’s markets, ice cream stands, kitschy motels, burger stands; sprinkled in with a few Tim Horton’s type of restaurants. It’s a beautiful drive in the summer.

It’s also a glorious drive in the fall with the changing of the autumn leaves.

The winter is when this drive can get dangerous. Not unlike many smaller highways in Ontario, Highway 115 isn’t particularly wide. It has two lanes for northbound traffic, and two lanes for southbound traffic.  The highway isn’t particularly well lit. There are no lights in most sections of the highway which can create visibility problems. Highway 115 is straight for the most part, so drivers may have a tendency to be aggressive on the gas. Or, they may not even realize how fast they are travelling.

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Driving while using or even holding a hand held device has become a hot button topic across Canada. Charges in relation to distracted driving are on the rise, and are slowly catching up to those charges related to impaired driving.

In Ontario, it’s illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communication or entertainment device; think smartphone or I-Pad.

Attentive drivers keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel. They aren’t distracted by their tablets or cell phones. It’s proven that drivers who operate cell phones while operating a motor vehicle are 4x more likely to be involved in a car accident than drivers who simply focus on driving. Even more interesting is that when motorists take their eyes off of the road for more than 2 seconds, the chances of them being involved in a car crash almost doubles. This is why it’s so important to keep your eyes on the road and not your phone.

Impaired driving is something different. When we thought of impaired driving in the past, we thought of driving under the influence of alcohol (over 80 as the term is commonly called in Ontario Courts, because that’s the legal limit).

Today, driving under the influence isn’t just limited to drunk driving offences. Ontario is currently 1 of 3 Canadian jurisdictions without any specific offenses related to driving under influence of drugs or other narcotics. We ought to have specific laws which prevent and prohibit such behaviour right?

The Ontario Legislature is presently in its third reading of Bill 31, which might be called “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, 2015; or something really catch and original like that. You know how the Government likes originality and long titles for its acts. If you haven’t read a copy, you should check it out here.

The Act will carry specific wording with respect to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or other narcotics.

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Recently, police forces from across Ontario began a 6 week distracted driving blitz. They’ve been handing out tickets left right and centre to crack down on offences like texting while driving, operating a cell phone while driving etc.

With the increase popularity and availability of smart phones, distracted driving has become a “hot button” safety issue. I remember when drunk driving was the “hot button” safe driving issue. Not that drunk driving offences are out of the public’s eye. They are now just sharing a bit of that spot light with distracted driving offences.

I remember when cell phones were are big a bricks. It was a status symbol to have one of these large cell phones. It was even a bigger status symbol to be seen chatting on that cell phone, during day time hours (when the minutes cost lost of $$$), and driving a car. That image gave off an impression of wealth, power, elevated status and success. You looked like a real shooter chatting on the cell phone while driving.

Who can forget the large centre console car phones (Cantel). They had a proper speaker feature, or you could also pull them up to your ear. The buttons were small, and you had to look down away from the windshield to make a call, or pick up the phone. These car phones were death traps; but they were also a status symbol.

Technology and times have changed significantly. With that, so has the etiquette and safety protocols of driving with a cell phone or mobile device in your car.
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A psychiatrist friend of mine innocently teased me for a Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post back in October 2013 on “dooring” epidemic that was facing cyclists in many of Canada’s largest cities (and the smaller ones too!).

Here is a link to that Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post, along with a video to Peter Mansbridge explaining on The National exactly what dooring is, and how it’s putting cyclists at risk of injury.

If you’ve never heard of “dooring“, basically, it’s when a car door opens directly in to the path of a passing cyclist, thereby causing the cyclist to hit the door or swerve out of control and result in serious injury.

I guess I was ahead of the curve. Recently, the Ontario government introduced the “Keeping Ontarios’ Roads Safe Act” (what a name!). One of the significant provisions of the Act was to increase fines for dooring from $60-$500, up to a range of $300-$1,000. It would also see demerit points raise from 2 to 3 points.

Imagine that, getting hit with a $1,000 fine and 3 demerit points for just trying to get out of your car and accidentally dooring a passing cyclist. You weren’t even driving! Your car was likely off, with keys in hand for such an offense. It’s not just motorists who drive that cause accidents. They’re caused in all sorts of ways.

In any event, to my psychiatrist friend who teased me over a year ago for writing about dooring and advocating for increased cyclists’ rights, I say eat my words (in a friendly tone of course). Always a trailblazer on these issues.

But, there’s much more to the Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act which you should know about. In particular, when it comes to fines for distracted driving.
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