Tougher Penalties in Store For This Group of Ontario Drivers

Most Ontario drivers aren’t familiar with existing fines, penalties and dangers when it comes to impaired driving.

New rules kicked in across the province on July 1 -they incorporate the addition of cannabis - and CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) is reminding motorists of the new rules around drug-impaired driving.

Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), tougher penalties will take effect for young and novice drivers who have alcohol in their system and will add matching penalties for drugs.

There are also new penalties for commercial vehicle drivers who have the presence of alcohol or drugs in their system.

CAA SCO supports Ontario’s zero tolerance approach to both alcohol and drugs for all young, novice and commercial vehicle drivers,” said manager of government relations Elliott Silverstein.

In addition to these measures, more work is required ahead of cannabis legalization to ensure all drivers are aware of both the dangers and penalties associated with driving while drug impaired.”

The new rules for young and novice drivers align drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired offences to ensure there’s a zero tolerance while they are in their formative years of driving and most at risk of being in a crash.

Cannabis, like many other drugs, slows reaction time and increases a driver’s chance of being in a collision.

Drivers found to be impaired by any drug, including cannabis, will face serious penalties, including an immediate licence suspension, financial penalties, as well as possible vehicle impoundment, criminal record and jail time.

New measures that went into effect on Canada Day include the following:

Young and Novice Drivers: In addition to alcohol, young and novice drivers, defined as drivers age 21 or under and novice drivers of any age (with G1, G2, M1, or M2 licenses), are prohibited from having any presence of cannabis in their system as well as other drugs that can be detected by an oral fluid screening device.

Commercial Drivers: Drivers of vehicles requiring an A-F class licence, vehicles requiring a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) and road building machines are prohibited from having any presence of alcohol or cannabis in their system as well as other drugs that can be detected by an oral fluid screening device.

Research conducted on behalf of CAA SCO by Ipsos in August 2017, shows that in Ontario:

  • Two in five cannabis users who have used cannabis in the past three months have operated a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
  • Most Ontario drivers are not familiar with the current fines/penalties for marijuana-impaired driving.
  • Ontario drivers believe there will be an increase in the frequency of marijuana-impaired driving, and that there may be more collisions due to cannabis use once legalized.
  • 71 per cent of those surveyed say that cannabis is as dangerous as both alcohol impairment and distracted driving on our roads.

Respondents also agreed that public education remains the number one area for preventing marijuana-impaired driving.


So what are the penalties for impaired driving?


If police determine that you’re impaired while driving, penalties are immediate and you’ll also face additional consequences later if you’re convicted in court. “The penalties you face can vary depending on your age, licence type, the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, and how many times you have been convicted,” according to information posted on the Ministry of Transportation website.

Immediate Penalties

Starting July 1, Ontario will have tougher penalties for young and novice drivers who have alcohol in their system and will add matching penalties for drugs. There will also be new penalties for commercial vehicle drivers who have the presence of alcohol or drugs in their system.


Penalties for a BAC in the Warn Range, Failing a Standardized Field Sobriety Test or Violating Zero Tolerance

If your blood alcohol concentration is 0.05 or higher, you fail a roadside sobriety test or you violate the zero tolerance requirements for young, novice and commercial drivers that begin on July 1, you will face:

First offence

3-day licence suspension
$250 penalty (begins January 2019)

Second offence within 5 years

7-day licence suspension*
Mandatory education program programs (for a second occurrence within 10 years)
$350 (begins January 2019)


Third and subsequent offence within 5 years

30-day licence suspension*
You must attend a mandatory treatment program (for third and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)
You will be required to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months (for third and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)
$450 penalty (begins January 2019)
You will need to have a mandatory medical evaluation that could result in an extended licence suspension.

You will also face a $198 licence reinstatement penalty for each offence, and you may also be charged under the Highway Traffic Act. If convicted you will face an additional suspension and a fine.

If you are a novice driver with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence and your licence has been suspended three times for violating zero tolerance requirements for drugs and/or alcohol, you will have your licence cancelled and you will have to retake all your driving tests.

*3-day licence suspension for commercial drivers who violate zero tolerance requirements


Penalties for a BAC Over the Legal Limit, Refuse Testing or Impairment

If you refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, you register a BAC over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines that you are impaired, you will face:

90-day licence suspension
7-day vehicle impoundment
$550 penalty (begins January 2019)
You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program (for second and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)
You will be requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 months (for third and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)


Additional Penalties if Convicted in Court

If you are a young or novice driver convicted in court for violating the zero tolerance requirements for drugs and/or alcohol, your driver’s licence will be suspended again for at least 30 days and you will receive an additional $60-$500 fine.

No matter what age or licence you have, if you are convicted criminally of impaired driving in court, you can face additional fines and jail time, plus:

First offence

Licence suspension of at least 1 year
You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 1 year
You will need to have a mandatory medical evaluation that could result in an extended licence suspension.


Second offence within 10 years

Licence suspension of at least 3 years
You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 3 years
You will need to have a mandatory medical evaluation that could result in an extended licence suspension


Third or more offence within 10 years

Lifetime licence suspension, which may be reduced after 10 years if you meet certain criteria to reduce the penalty
Mandatory education or treatment programs
Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 years

You will need to have a mandatory medical evaluation that could result in an extended licence suspension

(Source: Ministry of Transportation)

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