It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do many of our daily activities – including driving. The City of Hamilton’s 2020 Annual Collision Report recently identified a number of alarming trends relating to driver activity in the region. Notably, while there were fewer crashes in 2020, the accidents that did happen were more severe due to dangerous driving. These statistics are concerning, but unsurprising, as provincial and municipal police both observed an increase in speeding and “stunt driving”, especially during the early months of the pandemic.

What do these statistics mean for Ontario drivers? Not only are drivers and passengers at a higher risk of being involved in a car accident when dangerous driving activity is occurring, but they are also at a much higher risk of being seriously injured if cars are travelling at excessive speeds.

What Qualifies as “Dangerous Driving” in Ontario?

Section 320.13 of the Criminal Code defines “dangerous driving” as operating a motor vehicle “…in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes bodily harm to another person.” This definition is fairly broad and covers anything from driving too fast for the conditions to aggressive driving. There are separate charges for other types of dangerous driving, like speeding and impaired driving.

What is the Difference Between Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving?

Section 130 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act defines careless driving as anyone “who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway”.

While we may associate the word “highway” with express roadways such as the 400-series highways, for the purposes of the Highway Traffic Act, the word is more broadly defined:

[A] common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof.

There are some differences relating to how careless driving and dangerous driving charges are handled in Ontario.

  • Dangerous driving charges fall under the Criminal Code of Canada and apply federally, while careless driving charges under the Highway Traffic Act only apply to incidents occurring in Ontario; and
  • The penalties for dangerous driving are more severe than penalties for careless driving. Dangerous drivers may receive a criminal conviction if they are found guilty.

What are the Penalties for Dangerous and Careless Driving in Ontario?

The penalties for dangerous driving in Ontario are significant. Dangerous driving is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment (or two years for a summary conviction). Dangerous driving causing bodily harm is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment with a minimum fine of $1,000.

As of July 1, 2021, Ontario has made changes to what will be considered “stunt driving”, which includes street racing. Previously, anyone caught driving 50 km/hr in excess of the posted speed limit where the maximum limit is under 80 km/h would face an automatic charge of stunt driving. As of July, this has been reduced to 40 km/h over the limit if the limit is under 80 km/hr. A first offence will result in an automatic licence suspension for 1-3 years. Toronto specifically has seen a 90% increase in stunt driving charges between January and May of this year, in comparison to the same period in 2019.

The penalties for careless driving are still significant, but less serious than dangerous driving. The fine for careless driving ranges from $400.00 to $2,000.00 depending on severity, and careless drivers will receive 6 demerit points. Serious offences may result in a two-year license suspension, up to six months in jail, and a 100% increase in insurance.

Does Dangerous Driving Affect a Victim’s Ability to Seek Damages?

Rest assured that, in addition to criminal charges, you have the right to seek damages from a dangerous or careless driver if you are the victim of an accident. In addition to your entitlement to statutory benefits for medical costs and income loss, you may be able to sue the wrongful driver for damages. Speak with a skilled motor vehicle accident lawyer following any car accident, regardless of whether dangerous or careless driving was involved, as they will be in the best position to assess the unique circumstances of your case and bring about the best possible resolution.

Skilled Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way some drivers behave on Ontario’s roadways, victims of motor vehicle accidents are still entitled to compensation regardless of how the accident occurred. At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers will work tirelessly to help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries. While navigating life in the wake of a car accident can feel daunting, we have the experience and skills to tackle the legal issues and allow you to focus on your recovery.

Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation and discuss your matter with a member of our team.


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