Distracted Driving vs Drunk Driving - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Distracted Driving vs Drunk Driving

If you’re reading this, you probably need help with a distracted driving or drunk driving fine or charge. Possibly you’ve been injured in an accident with a distracted driver and want to know what you can do about it. 

Always avoid any form of drunk, distracted, careless, or impaired driving. If you have been prescribed strong medication or have only one drink, call for a taxi or a lift to avoid the consequences of a drunk driving charge. Don’t text, talk on your phone or program your GPS while driving.

For now, let’s look at what distracted driving and drunk driving are. Later we’ll cover the statistics, consequences and penalties associated with these offences. 

Distracted Driving vs Drunk Driving

Distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, but many people aren’t aware of how serious it really is. With the number of awareness campaigns globally, we all know the dangers of drinking and driving but often don’t even realise when we’re distracted while behind the wheel. 

What is Distracted Driving?

Whenever you’re driving, always keep in mind that according to the MTO, driving is a privilege, not a right. You need to prove that you’re an attentive driver to retain the benefit. Anybody injured or affected by a distracted driver can also claim compensation

Although the law in Ontario only refers to handheld devices like cellphones and GPS, you should be aware that other distractions also take your attention away from the task of driving and impair your ability to react to rapidly changing conditions or situations. 

Consider these distraction types:

  • Manual: Engaging in any activity that requires you to remove both hands from the wheel while driving. 
  • Visual: Any visual distraction that diverts your attention from driving. 
  • Cognitive: Cognitive distraction also contributes to distracted driving. Emotional stress, talking to somebody in the car or trying to remember a grocery list all distract you. 

Drunk driving

The federal legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0,08%. However, you can still be charged if you’re below the limit and the traffic officer feels that your driving ability is impaired. There’s no universal rule for how much you can drink and still drive responsibly, so instead, arrange a different form of transport even if you’ve only had one drink. 

If you’re a victim of an accident with a drunk driver, you can claim compensation for your damages or injuries. Whenever you’re involved in an accident, you should try to obtain as much information as possible but avoid making commitments at the scene. 

Consequences for Distracted and Drunk Driving

There is a subtle difference between the penalties and consequences of distracted or drunk driving. We discuss the penalties later, but pleading guilty to either of these offences also has hidden consequences. It’s essential to know about these consequences as they can have a long-term effect on your life.

Insurance Costs

Insurance companies will increase your rates by up to 100% if you’re guilty of these offences. Insurance companies will continue to judge you as a risk for the three years that these offences reflect on your record. 

Criminal Charges

You may find yourself facing criminal charges if you cause damage, injury, or death while driving drunk or distracted. 


If you drive a company vehicle in the course of your job, any serious driving offences impact your employability. Even for non-driving jobs, convictions contribute to employers’ character assessment of you. 

Civil Cases

You may also find yourself paying compensation to an injured party if they choose to approach the personal injury bar. 

Distracted or drunk driving is both dangerous and considered negligent actions. If you have been in an accident involving distracted or drunken drivers, call Diamond & Diamond right away to learn how to protect yourself. 

Statistics for Distracted and Drunk Driving

We have included a few statistics to emphasise the seriousness of distracted and drunk driving and build awareness.

Distracted Driving

  • In 2016 the Ontario provincial Police reported that distracted driving caused twice as many deaths as impaired (drunk or drugged) driving. 
  • Distraction contributed to 21% of collisions resulting in death and 27% resulting in serious injury in 2016. 
  • Distracted driving increases your chance of being involved in an accident by 500%
  • 26% of car accidents in the US involved cellphone usage by a driver. 
  • Reading or writing text messages while driving increases your chance of having an accident tenfold. 

Drunk Driving

  • If you have a BAC of 0,1%, you’re 51 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a sober driver.
  • 54% of traffic fatalities in 2014 involved impaired driving (13% were attributed to alcohol alone)
  • In 2018 a drug-related driving offence occurred every three hours. 
  • 69% of collisions in 2014 that involved a drinking driver were single-vehicle collisions. 
  • 16% of collisions with fatalities or serious injury in 2014 involved drunk drivers. 

Impaired driving includes alcohol use, drugs and prescribed medication that could affect your concentration or reaction time. Ensure that you know all the factors that lead to impaired driving

Penalties for Distracted and Drunk Driving

Although both offences have similar consequences, the penalties differ. Below is a summary of the penalties a judge may impose.  

Distracted Driving

  • 1st offence: A $615 to $1,000 fine, three demerit points and three days license suspension
  • 2nd offence: A $615 to $2,000 fine, six demerit points and seven days license suspension
  • 3rd and further offence: A $615 to $3,000 fine, six demerit points, and 30 days license suspension
  • Novice drivers: Novice drivers face the same penalties but a longer suspension and possible cancellation of their licence. 

You can defend yourself against an unfair distracted driving ticket if you respond quickly

Drunk Driving

  • All drunk driving offences have a maximum of 10-year imprisonment. 
  • 1st offence with BAC of 80-119mg: Mandatory minimum $1000 fine
  • 1st offence with BAC of 120-159mg: Mandatory minimum $1500 fine
  • 1st offence with BAC of 160mg or more: Mandatory minimum $2000 fine
  • 2nd offence: 30 days imprisonment minimum 

3rd offence: 120 days imprisonment minimum

pro tip icon

Pro Tip

“Driving with your dog on your lap breaches other laws in some provinces”.

Distracted and Drunk Driving FAQs

Could Someone be convicted under the new offence if they drive home sober and then consume alcohol?

No, but if they were involved in an accident and then drank alcohol, they would need to prove that they were sober while driving. 

Can I be fined if a passenger is using their smartphone?

No, you will not be fined if your passenger is using a smartphone. But you can be fined if your passenger is showing you texts or pictures on the cellphone. 

Why is mandatory alcohol screening needed?

Mandatory alcohol screening discourages drinking and driving, reducing the drunk driving frequency and protecting other road users. 

Can I go to jail for distracted driving in Canada?

In Canada, there are provinces where you can get jail time if you’re charged with distracted driving. In Ontario, careless drivers have to pay fines of up to $2,000 and face six months of jail time. Their license may also be suspended for up to two years. Dangerous drivers are punished with harsher penalties, including jail time of up to ten years for causing injury or 14 years for causing death.

Is it dangerous to drive while listening to loud music?

Although listening to music in your car can be beneficial to your driving, listening to loud music while driving can also be distracting. According to a study at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, listening to loud music can slow a person’s reaction time by as much as 20 percent.

What is the most distracted driving behaviour?

There are three types of distractions when driving on the road: visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Below are some of the most common distracting behaviors when driving:

  • Talking and texting
  • Not looking at the road
  • Zoning out
  • Putting on makeup
  • Adjusting your car’s GPS
  • Adjusting music or controls
  • Talking to passengers
  • Handling children or pets

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