Distracted Driving Laws & Penalties In Manitoba
If you receive an important message while you’re driving, what should you do?
In Manitoba, the best call is to leave your phone alone.
Even though smartphones are relatively new, the Canadian justice system has punishments for a common offence: distracted driving. But what qualifies as distracted driving? Here are a few examples:
- Using social media
- Looking at a smartwatch
Anything that takes your attention/eyes away from the road can be considered distracted driving.
It’s against the law to use handheld devices (cellphones, music players, or gaming systems) while driving in Manitoba. You’d be wise to follow this law—if you’re caught driving while distracted, you can face serious penalties.
Consequences for Distracted Driving
In 2018, the province introduced new laws to punish distracted drivers. The harsher penalties were designed to discourage Manitobans from driving while using cellular devices.
If you’re caught driving while distracted, you could face some of the following penalties:
- A fine of $672 (which was increased from $203 in 2018).
- Five demerits, which lowers your rating on the Driver Safety Rating Scale (which increases the driver’s licence premiums that you pay). Before the new legislation, drivers only received two demerits.
- A licence suspension. For first-time offenders, a suspension lasts 3 days. But if it happens again within 10 years, the suspension lasts for 7 days. Drivers must pay a $50 fee on top of other fines to get their licence back.
If a distracted driver is involved in a collision, these penalties increase. Depending on the damages, the driver could be charged with criminal negligence and receive a lifetime jail sentence.
The new distracted driving laws are comparable to the penalties for impaired driving. Under the eyes of the law, both offences are serious crimes due to the dangers they pose to others on the road.
Why are the Penalties So Harsh?
The statistics on distracted driving accidents are harrowing. In 2017, 30 people lost their lives and 184 people were injured because of distracted drivers. To put that into perspective, 1 in 3 deaths from a road accident involve a distracted driver.
If you receive an urgent text message or phone call, don’t answer right away; pull over. Trying to drive while reading or texting can cause a fatal accident that can change your life (or the lives of those you impact) forever.
Avoid Penalties for Distracted Driving
Many new vehicles feature technology that allows drivers to stay focused but still interact with their devices.
If you receive a call while driving, you can answer it using a screen and without picking up your phone. Cars can even read out incoming text messages through the speakers and transcribe your voice into a written response. These hands-free features allow drivers to stay connected without distracting them from the road.
Even though many have criticized the new distracted driving laws for being too harsh, there are no signs that they’ll change. What can you do if you’re caught driving while distracted in Manitoba?
Given the severity of these penalties, it’s imperative to have legal representation. If you need a criminal lawyer in Winnipeg, contact Matthew Gould. With help from an experienced defence lawyer, you can potentially reduce your penalties and create a strong argument for your case.