Impaired and Distracted. With December’s recent onslaught of holiday parties, family gatherings, shopping frenzies and end of year work deadlines, that’s pretty much how many of us felt all month.
But as Judges often state in their courtrooms, it’s not a crime to consume alcohol, use marijuana or to text on your phone… but it is if you’re operating a motor vehicle. And the rules and penalties in Ontario are getting a whole lot tougher in 2019.
Under new federal criminal law, if you have been lawfully stopped by the police for any reason, they can now demand samples of your breath even without any suspicion that you have consumed alcohol. This will undoubtedly lead to significantly more breath tests and criminal charges.
For first time offenders found guilty of a DUI offence, the mandatory minimum penalties include a criminal record, a fine and a license suspension. The further fallout resulting from a criminal conviction often lead to other problems, such as securing employment, travelling to the US and exorbitant insurance rates.
And, if the circumstances were worse, such as evidence of extremely high alcohol readings, poor driving, an accident or an injury, the penalties become much more severe with possibilities of higher fines, longer driving suspensions and jail time.
Further, under new provincial traffic laws, the penalties for distracted driving have also increased. First time offenders found guilty now face higher fines, a mandatory 3 day license suspension and 3 demerit points. Repeat offenders will face even higher fines, longer suspensions and more demerit points.
This problem with distracted driving is not an easy one to solve. Our society’s ever-increasing attachment and reliance on our hand-held devices for so many aspects of our lives – calls, texts, GPS directions, music, photos, videos and social media make it very difficult for a driver to turn it all off once behind the wheel.
To be so connected most of the time and then to stop cold turkey when driving calls for an extremely high level of personal discipline and restraint. Clearly a 21st century dilemma and a difficult one in this era of instant gratification.
Driving schools offer some wise tips. Put your device out of sight. Use apps that block incoming texts and calls. Have your passengers help. Set up your navigations before you start the car. Pull off to the side of the road if you need to.
Are there any other solutions? Vehicles with technology that don’t allow you to operate it with any intoxicating substances in your system to reduce the DUI’s? Technology that shuts down your device while you are driving to take away the temptation?
Or, how about more affordable and accessible Uber and Lyft? But, isn’t there an element of distracted driving with those drivers as well, as they find and accept customers, follow GPS directions and talk on the phone?
Hmm. Self driving cars can’t come fast enough …