I did a little math the other day and realized that I’ve been driving for… well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since driver’s ed and my nail biter of a road test.
It’s normal to get so set in our driving habits that we forget to think about the rules of the road.
Example? Using turn signals. This habit is so basic and so easy, yet so many of us don’t bother.
For the other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, with whom we share the roadways, it’s more than a courtesy: it’s essential.
The Highway Traffic Act (Section 142.1) does say that you don’t have to signal if no others using the road are affected by your turn or lane change, but the reality is, there could be drivers or pedestrians that you aren’t immediately aware of and if a police officer witnesses this, you could be in for a ticket.
Whether you have to use the signal or not isn’t really the point. If you do it every time you turn or change lanes, it will just become force of habit and you’ll avoid forgetting in the future. Here are a few other refreshers:
If The School Bus Is Flashing, Get Ready To Stop
You’re driving behind a school bus, and you’re late for a meeting. Just then, the bus driver in front of you flips on the flashing lights and you know the stop sign is about to come out from the side, so you move to pass quickly, to get ahead of it.
You don’t know if a child is getting on or off the bus, or if they’ll be crossing in front of the bus to get to the opposite side of the road. And while you might think that being late for a meeting is bad, trust me when I say that living with the guilt of having injured or killed a child because of your actions? So much worse.
Even if you don’t hurt anyone, if caught, you could face fines of upwards of $2,000 and a loss of up to 6 demerit points. Just don’t do it.
There is only one exception to this rule: if there is a physical median—a raised, concrete or paved strip designed to stop cars from crossing over into the oncoming lane—separating your lane from that of the bus.
Distracted Driving Is About More Than Texting
No doubt you’re aware that you can’t text and drive, but have you ever done it anyway?
Snuck a look at your texts while stopped at a red light? Held your phone in your hand as you used the speakerphone on it? These are all infractions that come with fines, demerits and license suspensions to the tune of:
$615 – $1000 – first conviction
$615 – $2,000 – second conviction
$615 – $3,000 – third conviction
3 – first conviction
6 – second conviction
6 – third conviction
3-day suspension for first conviction
7-day suspension for second conviction
30-day conviction for third and any further conviction
However, distracted driving isn’t just about texting. You also can’t dial your phone, use a tablet or gaming console, watch Netflix on a screen while driving, program your GPS by hand.
While technically drinking coffee, applying makeup, smoking, reading (yes, reading!) and other ‘distracted behaviours’ are not included in the distracted driving law, you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
The penalties for conviction of either of these are much higher. For example, careless driving—where you endangered the lives of others because of a distraction—comes with the loss of six demerit points, fines up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of six months, and a license suspension of up to two years.
Driving Under The Influence Will Include Cannabis Edibles
One big change that came up at the end of 2018 was mandatory alcohol screening. This basically states that the police can pull anyone over and demand a breathalyzer test. Previously, they had to have reasonable suspicion of impairment to do so.
Alcohol impairment penalties are fairly straightforward: if you’re on a graduated license (a young driver or you are a commercial driver, there is a zero tolerance on having any alcohol or drugs in your system. For regular drivers, there is a warn range, where if they blow over 0.05 but under 0.08 blood alcohol levels, they will receive the same penalties as a novice driver. If they blow over 0.08, the penalties go up from there and can include mandatory education and an ignition lock device.
With drugs, the issue is that there isn’t an available roadside test to determine impairment. All a saliva test will show is that the person has drugs in their system, but as cannabis can stay in the body for up to 30 days (while only active for up to 6), that doesn’t mean they are impaired.
However, if a police officer suspects impairment due to consumption of cannabis edibles, smoking cannabis or ingestion of other drugs, they can require you to submit to a field sobriety test and / or require you to attend the police station for a blood test.
The only exception to the saliva test being invalid to use is in the case of novice or commercial drivers, who fall under the category of zero tolerance.
And Under The Category Of Weird Laws That Are Still On The Books
Section 173: “No person shall race or drive furiously any horse or other animal on a highway.” It’s only common sense…
Section 77 (1): “Every person travelling on a highway with a sleigh or sled drawn by a horse or other animal shall have at least two bells attached to the harness or to the sleigh or sled in such a manner as to give ample warning sound.” Not one, but two. The law doesn’t specify what kind of bell though, so I can imagine that causing some issues in court.
Section 181: “No person shall deposit snow or ice on a roadway without permission in writing so to do from the Ministry or the road authority responsible for the maintenance of the road.” But the plows blocking my driveway? No problem for them!
All joking aside, driving is a privilege and road safety has to be top of mind every time you get behind the wheel of your car. If you’re late for the meeting, so be it. At least you’ll arrive alive and intact, and so will everyone else on the road.