Ontario Laws Now Tougher on Careless Drivers Who Endanger or Hurt Pedestrians

Could Ontario finally be getting serious about real consequences for drivers who endanger pedestrians and cyclists?

We’ve written before about penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians or other vulnerable road users and how the consequences are often grossly inadequate considering the injury or fatality they are responsible for.

It’s been a while since Ontario last strengthened laws against drivers who ignore crosswalk and crossover laws, but as of September 1st, the fines and demerits for these violations have increased. Here’s a look at the new, more serious consequences:

Failing to yield at pedestrian crosswalks, school crossings, and crossovers

  • Maximum fines have doubled, from a maximum of $500 to a maximum of $1000.
  • Demerits have increased from 3 to 4
  • These consequences apply regardless of whether anyone is injured
  • The new fines are doubled in community safety zones

Careless driving causing bodily harm or death

Penalties for a “careless driving” offence remain the same: a fine of $400 to $2000 and 6 demerits, up to six months in jail and up a two years’ license suspension.

But importantly, a new offence of “careless driving causing bodily harm or death” has been created. A conviction of this type of offence may result in:

  • A fine of up to $50,000 (before September 1, the maximum was $2000 – fines doubled in community safety zones)
  • Six demerits
  • Up to two years in jail
  • A drivers’ license suspension of up to five years

The new legislation also provides that if a person is convicted of careless driving causing bodily harm or death, the court must consider the injured pedestrian or cyclist’s vulnerability as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence.

In a news release, Minister of Transportation John Yakabuski noted, “Time and time again we’ve seen families devastated because a loved one is hurt or killed by a dangerous driver, and the driver walks away with no more than a slap on the wrist… This new charge sends a clear message that dangerous driving won’t be tolerated.”

The new laws arrive in the midst of the ongoing distracted driving epidemic in this province. The OPP recently reported they had investigated 5,619 collisions involving driver inattention this year, including 31 deaths. Penalties for distracted driving will go up again in January 2019 — but how long will it take for these consequences to result in safer streets?