As roads get more congested and motor vehicle accidents are on the rise, it’s a good time to take a look at some of the more obscure Ontario traffic laws or rules of the road that you might not be aware of.
Ignorance isn’t a defence, so it’s important to know what you can and can’t do when operating a vehicle on Ontario roads.
After all, if you’re like the average Ontario driver, you took your driver training and test upwards of thirty years ago. Many laws have changed and not knowing the new rules are won’t get you out of ticket or off of the liability hook.
Have you ever watched a car blow through a pedestrian crossover on their side of the road, just because the pedestrian was now into the other half of the walk? As of 2016, that’s highly illegal. Take note: A crosswalks, the pedestrian has to have FULLY cleared the crossover and be back on the sidewalk before you can continue to drive.
If you don’t wait for them to clear and are caught? You could be facing a fine of between $150 and $500, with three demerit points taken. Do it in a school or ‘Community Safety’ zone and you could see these fines and point loss double. This law also applies to any pedestrian crossing area when a school crossing guard is present and holding up their stop sign.
The rationale is obvious: a vehicle on the other side, seeing traffic moving, might not be aware that there is still a pedestrian in the crossover.
To be clear, when I say ‘crossover’, I mean the designated areas to cross a road where it is marked with road markings, overhead and lit signals (with the big X) and pedestrian buttons to active the signal. This law doesn’t apply in the standard crossing areas at an intersection, with traffic signals.
Speaking of crossovers, did you know that you cannot change lanes within 30 metres of a pedestrian crossover? I’ve seen this so many times: a vehicle stops for a crossover because they can see the pedestrian / flashing overhead lights and the vehicle behind them, who is only paying attention to his / her blocked path, swerves into the next lane to keep going.
They have an obstructed view of the crossover and could easily hit a pedestrian. It seems like an obvious rule that should go without saying, but it gets broken all the time.
Did you know that it’s NOT illegal to cross a solid line on a highway, for the purposes of passing? The line is there to tell drivers that it might not be safe to pass in that area of highway but it’s technically not against the law.
That said, you can still be charged with making an unsafe pass if an accident results from your lane change, so it’s not a free license to changes lanes at will either.
Changing lanes in an intersection, however, IS against the law and spectacularly dangerous. With people turning right and left, a vehicle changing lanes within the intersection is just inviting an accident.
Distracted Driving Isn’t Just About Phones
To the lady I saw this morning putting on her mascara while doing 120 km/hr on the QEW? You were driving distracted. To the guy in the minivan with a coffee in one hand and doughnut in the other? Also distracted.
While you might not necessarily get pulled over for doing one of these things, under the distracted driving laws—intended for those caught using a phone / GPS while driving—an accident that occurs as a direct result of being distracted could land you with extra charges of careless driving, to say nothing of liability issues on a claim.
Don’t Ignore The Countdown Clock
This one is for pedestrians: For those walking on and crossing at street intersections with traffic signals that have a countdown clock, did you know that it is illegal to start crossing if the countdown has already begun?
It’s a little known and problematic law, particularly given that some intersections start the countdown the second the light turns green. The idea is that if there are no pedestrians crossing during the countdown, cars who are turning right against a red traffic signal can do so with less risk to foot traffic.
The countdown is to show pedestrians who are already engaged in crossing how much time they have, not to show people who haven’t started crossing whether they have enough time to dash across or not.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last decades, you know that in Ontario, you are considered to be driving under the influence if a roadside sobriety test reveals that you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more. This is a criminal offence that can result in your losing your license, your vehicle being impounded, jail time and a criminal record, among other things.
But did you know that in Ontario, police can suspend your license for three days or more if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or higher, but less than 0.08?
It’s called an administrative penalty, more commonly referred to as the ‘warn range’. It’s not a criminal conviction, but the suspension comes with a monetary penalty of $198.00. That’s for the first offence. A second roadside suspension within five years? 7 day suspension, a mandatory re-education program and $198 fine. Third suspension or more, within five years? 30 day suspension, re-education, six month ignition interlock and $198 fine.
If you’re wondering what other rules of the road you might be missing or have forgotten, you can always brush up at the MTO website.
Take care and be safe out there, and if you do have the misfortune of getting into an accident, call a lawyer. It’s a good step to take up front to ensure you don’t have more problems later on.