BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
Ontario is beefing up its road rules for drivers and cyclists.
Bill 31 was unanimously passed last Tuesday and, among other provisions, introduces significant new penalties for driving while distracted or drug-impaired, entering a crosswalk before a pedestrian has left it, and passing too close to a cyclist.
Fines for distracted driving will increase from the current range of $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000, and three demerit points will be assigned to anyone convicted of an offense.
Under the new legislation, current alcohol-impaired driving sanctions will apply to drivers who are drug impaired. Repeat impaired driving offenders will also have to complete an alcohol education program, treatment, and monitoring.
Cyclists and pedestrians have additional coverage under Bill 31, too.
Drivers must allow pedestrians to completely cross at a school or pedestrian crossing before moving forward, enhancing the current rule which says drivers must only yield half the crosswalk.
Dooring a cyclist will now carry a fine of $300 to $1,000, up from the current $60 to $500. Drivers will also be required to keep a distance of one metre while passing cyclists.
Even with these new provisions, Red Lake cyclist Jennifer Leblanc Szaflik thinks that motorists and cyclists alike should be more educated and patient when it comes to sharing the road.
“I looked up the laws because I wanted to make sure that I was doing my part,” explained Leblanc Szaflik. “I’m supposed to hang out to the right side of the road as much as I can, however, if it’s not safe to do that, I am entitled to take up my lane when cycling and other cars and trucks need to be respectful of that because I am legally allowed to be on the road, too.”
Leblanc Szaflik said her main concern is drivers passing her by going into the oncoming lane on a hill or corner.
“I was coming up Forestry Road and this person pulled out into the oncoming lane on a blind hill at the corner. That’s not safe. That’s scary for everyone involved. If someone would have come around the corner, both vehicles and probably myself would have been injured,” expressed Leblanc Szaflik.
“It really is everybody’s responsibility to watch out for other people. Cyclists should be smart and careful and watch out for cars…and motorists need to be aware.”
The new fines and measures of Bill 31 will come into effect over the coming months.