Automotive

Published on November 13th, 2014 | by Elliott Silverstein

What Does Bill 31 Mean for Motorists?

Last month, the Honourable Steven Del Duca (Ontario’s Minister of Transportation) announced the introduction of Bill 31, also referred to as the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act.”  The legislation aims to address a number of road safety issues in the province that our Members have repeatedly told us are high priorities for them.

For many the contents of the bill may sound familiar. Bill 31 builds upon a legislation that was introduced by then-Transportation Minister Glen Murray prior to the 2014 provincial election. Among the numerous issues addressed in Bill 31 are increased fines for distracted driving infractions, the introduction of Slow Down Move Over provisions for tow truck drivers, and additional safety measures for cycling in Ontario.

Road safety is a significant piece of CAA’s advocacy efforts, as our Government & Community Relations team works with politicians and stakeholders across the province in an effort to keep Ontario’s roads safe. CAA has long advocated for stronger penalties for distracted driving and for the protection of tow trucks drivers while working on Ontario’s roads.

Bill 31 is regarded as a comprehensive piece of legislation that incorporates a number of issues including distracted driving, cycling, paved highway shoulders, drunk driving, drugs and driving, pedestrians, school buses, and trucking. Many of the recommendations in the bill were previously introduced at Queen’s Park by representatives of all three political parties.  Below are some highlights of what Bill 31 addresses and what it means for road users.

Distracted Driving

Since 2006, CAA has actively advocated on the issue of distracted driving.  In fact, our initial campaign was calling for a ban on cellphone use for novice or new drivers. We are pleased to see the conversation has gone full circle, as Bill 31 proposes a zero tolerance for novice drivers using a handheld device.

As a long time supporter of the government’s efforts to address distracted driving, CAA is pleased to see Bill 31 propose an increase in fines up to $1,000 (up from $280), and introducing three demerit points per infraction. This is a significant and necessary step in curbing the rise of distracted driving on our roads.

For several years, CAA has worked with fellow traffic safety partners to raise awareness about the dangerous behaviours associated with distracted driving, an action that claims far too many lives on Ontario’s roadways. This collaborative work has resulted in an annual campaign that engages the public on this important issue.

It only takes a brief moment to dramatically change your life or someone else’s, and that’s why CAA continues encouraging drivers to put the phone down and away, and to focus on the road.

Cycling

CAA has been involved in many efforts to enhance Ontario’s cycling infrastructure, participating in a coroner’s review of cycling deaths, and we also helped develop #CycleON – the province’s new cycling policy that was unveiled last year.  The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act is an important step in having a shared road environment and promoting greater safety for our road users.

Slow Down Move Over

For tow truck drivers, their workplace is Ontario’s roadway. This bill will help provide a safer working environment for them and the motorists they serve and bring to safety. CAA has advocated for changes since 2010, calling for tow truck drivers to be protected under the Highway Traffic Act. Slow Down Move Over initiatives are currently law in 47 American states, and five Canadian provinces. In support of this initiative, CAA has submitted over 7,500 signatures to Queen’s Park through a petition supporting this legislation.

Overall, CAA is supportive of Bill 31, as it is designed to keep Ontario’s roads and road users safe. The legislation not only reinforces the importance of road users focusing their attention on the road, but it also tackles new and growing challenges that we face, including driving under the influence of drugs. Impairment while operating a vehicle on our roads not only poses a threat to the driver, but other road uses including pedestrians and cyclists. Bill 31 is a critical step in addressing these issues.

At the time of this writing, Bill 31 is not law and must still be debated and passed by the Ontario Legislature. However, it is a reminder to all motorists about the commitment of legislators to keep Ontario’s roads safe. As Bill 31 is debated in the Legislature, CAA will continue to keep its Members aware of its status and any pending changes for motorists.

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