Yup, you can get jail time for texting and driving.

A simple ‘texting and driving’ google search generates statistics that goes on for pages. It’s simple logic – if you’re looking at something other than the road when you’re driving, you are more likely to have an accident. One stat pops up repeatedly, and paints a pretty scary picture. A driver’s eyes are diverted from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds when reading or sending a text. In 4.6 seconds, with its driver not looking at the road, a car travelling 100km/hour travels the length of a football field. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to imagine the deadly situations that might crop up on the road in that span. Not surprisingly, the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that you are 23 times more likely to crash if texting while driving.

So what if you do get caught texting and driving? It is illegal in each of the provinces of Canada to text and drive (or to use any handheld cellular device), even while stopped at a red light. Under the new legislation, which came into force in April 2008, if you haven’t caused an accident, the fine in Nova Scotia is $164 for the first offence, $222 for the second and $337 for subsequent offences. There are similar fines in each of the other provinces. In Nova Scotia, you will not be assigned any demerit points, but in most other provinces you will get three (BC, Que., NB, PEI, Yukon and NWT) or four (Nfld. & Sask.).

However, that isn’t the only law that applies. There has long been a section of the Motor Vehicle Act that every driver shall drive ‘in a careful and prudent manner having regard to all the circumstances’. Under this section you will be assessed six demerit points and a fine of a minimum of $250 for the first offence, $500 for the second and $1000 for any subsequent offences. You will also lose your license for a minimum of seven days, but potentially as long as a year. You may also face criminal charges. Under the Criminal Code, if you are found guilty of operating a vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public you will lose your license, have to pay a large fine and potentially face a jail term of up to five years.

 In the event that you cause ‘bodily harm’, the maximum jail term increases to ten years. If you kill someone, the sentence can be up to fourteen years in prison. It’s easy to dismiss the notion that sending one little text while driving could injure or kill someone. But it happens daily. Imagine someone you love is seriously injured or worse by a driver texting ‘LOL’. Then, vow to never be that driver.

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By: Dianna M. Rievaj, MBA, LLB - Managing Lawyer

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