Beware the consequences of texting while driving
By Cesar Carranza
Most people know that using mobile devices while driving can have dangerous consequences. In particular, mobile communications are linked to an increase in distracted driving, threatening both life and property.
But did you also know that texting while driving can lead to fines and an increase in your insurance premiums?
Texting while driving (which includes reading texts and emails) has been outlawed in all Canadian provinces, with research studies warning that drivers on a cell phone are four times as likely to be in a car crash.
In Ontario, Bill 118 came into force in February 2010, adding talking or texting while driving to the list of traffic offences (on devices including iPods, Blackberrys, mp3 players, and laptops). If a driver violates Bill 118, he or she will receive a $500 fine and demerit points.
In addition to the fine, texting while behind the wheel can cost a driver a lot more, as the price of his or her automobile insurance policy will increase. Essentially, the price of the automobile policy insurance depends on the driving record. For example, if you already have one ticket on your record, the addition of a distracted driver conviction could lead to an increase of as much as 10%. In the case that you have been convicted twice for distracted driving, the total increase on your car insurance premium could be almost 20%.
If you are involved in an accident caused by texting while driving, you could face a careless driving charge. In this case, you will be fined of up to $1000 and receive six demerit points on your license. Your insurance premium would also increase by 50% just for the conviction.
In addition, you would have an at fault accident on your record which could lead to an increase of your premium by as much as 100%.
The comparison between the total cost of this conviction (the fine plus the increase to your car insurance premium) and the cost of a hands-free device for a cell phone (as low as $27) indicates that it is just not worth it to ignore this new legislation.
While Bill 118 does exempt hands-free devices and dash-mounted global positioning systems (GPS), if a driver uses a hands free device ‘while putting others at risk’, he or she can be fined up to $1000, six demerit points, face a license suspension and possible jail time.
What can be done to stem this problem? Ultimately, local and federal governments need to cooperate with industry, safety organizations, and other government agencies to inform and educate the public about the dangers of texting while driving. They also need to identify and facilitate the development of innovative technologies that could decrease the incidence of distracted driving.
(Cesar Carranza is head of Carranza LLP’s Accident Benefits Department.
Carranza LLP is Canada’s first ISO 9001:2008 certified personal injury law firm. It offers services in 25 languages and as part of a commitment to making legal representation accessible and understandable to everyone, their website is now available in 10 languages, including Filipino.
Cesar is the past Chair of the Law Clerk section of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association and is a licensed paralegal.)