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OPP conducting distracted driving campaign during March Break

The new penalties include a fine increase up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension
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With the Ontario Provincial Police set to conduct its Distracted Driving Campaign during March Break, drivers caught using their cellphones may also get caught off-guard by the tougher penalties that took effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The new penalties include a fine increase up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.

The penalties increase with subsequent offences. For novice drivers in the graduated licencing system, there is no fine or additional demerit points but longer licence suspensions now apply.

"Among the most dangerous drivers are those who continue to ignore the facts and convince themselves that using a cell phone while driving is not dangerous and forms part of today's driving culture. Never let a driver use this, or any other justification for using a hand-held device while driving. It is as dangerous a driving behaviour today as it was when Ontario's distracted driving laws came into force 10 years ago," OPP Interim Commissioner Gary Couture said.

The deaths of 55 people and more than 9,115 collisions were linked to an inattentive driver on OPP-patrolled roads in 2018.

The OPP laid 13,529 distracted driving charges last year against drivers who chose to make roads unsafe by dividing their attention between driving and using a hand-held electronic device.

"Not only is it illegal to use your phone or any other hand-held device while driving, stopped in traffic or at a red light, it can be fatal," said Sylvia Jones, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

"Distracted driving is still a major cause of collisions and drivers will now face tougher penalties, including automatic driver's licence suspensions. Don't risk your life and the lives of others, put down the phone."