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Ontario increases penalties for drivers who text, email, talk on handheld phone

Police say distracted driving is becoming the No. 1 killer on the roads, accounting for more deaths than impaired driving or speed-related collisions.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Ontario has passed new legislation to increase penalties for drivers who text or use a handheld phone, impose a one-metre distance rule between vehicles and bicycles, and hike fines for "dooring" a cyclist.

Fines for distracted drivers will increase from the old range of $60 to $500 to between $300 to $1,000 plus three demerit points.

Using handheld electronic devices while driving has been outlawed in Ontario since 2009, except for 911 emergency calls.

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Police say distracted driving is becoming the No. 1 killer on the roads, accounting for more deaths than impaired driving or speed-related collisions.

Fines for opening a door into the path of a bicyclist will also increase to the same amounts as distracted driving, and motorists must leave a one-metre distance — where practicable — when passing bicyclists.

Drivers must also wait until pedestrians completely cross the road at school crossings and at crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights, and not yield just half the roadway as required under the old law.

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