Put it Away or the More You’ll Pay

By: Whitley Newman Insurance
April 29, 2019

Not long after the new distracted driving laws took effect, Toronto police conducted a campaign to see if drivers were changing their behaviors. During the week-long campaign in January, 670 drivers were charged with distracted driving violations and awareness isn’t the problem, according to a recent survey.  

Insurance-Hotline.com surveyed 1,095 Canadian drivers and while most confirmed they were aware of the new penalties for distracted driving, approximately 25% advised they still check their messages while driving and 41% said they will likely continue to check messages while stopped at a red light.

What is Distracted Driving?

Drivers can be charged with distracted driving whether they are driving or stopped at a traffic light. The laws consider distracted driving to be:

  • the use of a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial (unless it’s a 911 call)
  • the use of a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console
  • viewing  a display screen unrelated to driving such as a video screen
    manually programming a GPS or similar device.

Drivers are allowed to use hands-free wireless communications devices while driving provided they utilize an earpiece, lapel button speaker or Bluetooth. Drivers can also view GPS screens if they are built into the vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted on the dashboard, but they can only be programmed by voice commands.

Although other actions such as eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading and reaching for objects are not part of the distracted driving laws, drivers can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving if these actions affect their driving abilities.

Why is Distracted Driving a Concern?

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted driving is still the number one cause of accidents in the province. In 2016 alone, 65 people were killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers in the province and 310 died across the country.

Changes to Insurance

Insurance companies are fully aware of the dangers of distracted driving through their accident statistics and these types of accidents are driving up claim costs. To address the issue, several companies plan to amend their underwriting rules later this year to re-classify a distracted driver conviction from a minor to a major conviction. This is big news as a minor conviction will typically have no or little impact on an insurance policy; but having a major conviction on your driving record will result in a policy cancellation on your next renewal.

When shopping for a replacement policy, drivers with a major conviction will quickly realize their only option for insurance is now a higher-priced non-standard policy, which also includes a 25% surcharge due to the major conviction.

Here’s an example:

  • Current annual premium for auto insurance is approximately $1,000
  • Policy is cancelled on renewal due to a major conviction
  • Lowest-priced non-standard policy is approximately $2,400
  • The added cost per year will be $1,400. 

Since all convictions remain on a driver abstract for three years, drivers will need to keep the non-standard policy during this time. In the example above, the distracted driving conviction will cost this driver an additional $4,200 over three years.

Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

  • switch your phone to its silent mode before you enter your car
  • utilize a smart phone app that automatically shuts off your phone’s communications while driving
  • ask a passenger to take any calls or respond to texts for you
  • utilize all hands-free options
  • the best tip: simply power off your phone and put it away before driving.
The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.

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