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Ontario proposes demerit point penalty for distracted drivers, heftier fine

Police across the country are on the lookout for drivers who are using a phone while driving.

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Ontario is proposing a potentially costly hike in penalties for distracted drivers by imposing three demerit points in addition to a maximum fine of up to $1,000.

Drivers who receive demerit points after being convicted of using their cell phones behind the wheel could face higher insurance premiums.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray says the government consulted police, the Canadian Automobile Association and other groups before coming up with legislation to impose the new penalties.

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Just last month, Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice signed an order increasing the set fine for distracted driving to $225 from $125 starting March 18.

Under the judge's order, drivers would face a fine of $280, including surcharges, starting Tuesday.

However, drivers who fight the ticket by going to court can face fines of up to $500.

Drivers are allowed to use a cellphone to call 911 in an emergency or if they've pulled off the road.

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