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Increased distracted driving fines could be in place by this year

Texting while driving is a major concern for drivers and police. 680News/Carl Hanstke

A bill to increase distracted driving fines is expected to be re-introduced at Queen’s Park this fall.

Police and government officials told 680News they believe tougher penalties for distracted driving could be in place by the end of this year.

The legislation was put on hold due to June’s provincial election, but once Queen’s Park resumes in the fall, it’s believed the legislation could be passed.

If the new law is passed, distracted driving will go from $280 and no points, to a maximum $1,000 fine and three demerit points.

“Personally, it can’t come too soon because we continue to see drivers operating their motor vehicles on the roads in what I would consider an unsafe environment — texting, talking, distracted,” York police Insp. Heidi Schellhorn told 680News on Tuesday.

Kathryn Field’s son, Josh, looked down at his cell phone while driving and was killed in a crash. She is also pushing for tougher penalties.

“Just one second, it was literally one second for him to be distracted from the road, and that one second cost him his life,” Fields said.

“People don’t realize you’ve got to be concentrating on the road 100 per cent.”

Toronto and York police kicked off a six-week distracted driving blitz on Tuesday. Drivers caught holding a handheld-device while driving can receive a $280 fine.

Studies show that drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to get into a collision.

So far in 2014, Ontario provincial police said 9,882 distracted driving charges have been laid against drivers due to hand-held devices.

According to the OPP, there have been 31 distracted-related collision deaths in Ontario this year.