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Topic of the Month

Road Safety

No matter how safe a driver you are, collisions, sudden stops and unexpected events happen when you're on the road. Always wearing a seatbelt, putting children in proper car seats, paying close attention to the road and avoiding the use of handheld devices are all key components to being a safe driver and preventing serious injury or death because of an accident.

Bicycles share the road with cars and it's important that cyclists also follow the rules of the road. You can be pulled over on your bicycle for not adhering to the rules.

Seatbelts

In Ontario it is illegal for drivers and passengers not to wear a seatbelt. Drivers are responsible for ensuring that any pasenger who is under 16 years old is wearing a seatbelt or is secured in a child safety seat. You can face a fine from $200 - $1,000 and two demerit points for not ensuring your passengers under 16 are wearing seatbelts. If a passenger who is over 16 years of age is not buckled up, they can be fined and must provide their name, address and date of birth to a police officer if pulled over.

How should my seatbelt fit?

The lap portion should be snug to your body and low on your hips. The shoulder strap must be across your chest and over your shoulder. If it is worn under the arm it could damage your ribs in a collision or sudden stop. The seatbelt is meant to keep your head and body from hitting the inside of the vehicle, and keep you inside the vehicle during a collision rather than being thrown through the windshield or door.

Car Seats

Always install a car seat tightly. There should be very little movement where the seatbelt or the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap is routed through the child car seat. Each time you place your child in the car seat, give it a tug to ensure it's secure. Car seats should always be installed away from active air bags. The safest place is in the back seat of a passenger car, sport utility vehicle, light truck or second or third row of a mini-van.

When you strap your child into a car seat, make sure the harness straps lie flat with no more than one finger space between the harness and the child's collarbone (rear-facing) or chest (forward-facing).

Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight weight 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg and who stand less than 145 cm tall.

A child can start using only a seatbelt when one of the following is met:

  • the child turns eight years old;
  • the child weighs 36 kg (80 lb.); or,
  • the child is 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.   

Remember that child car seats have expiry dates. Also, all car seats manufactured in Canada after March 15, 1998 must have a Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) label on the seat.

Handheld Devices

Ontario has banned the use of handheld devices while driving, taking effect October 26, 2009.

This means it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using handheld devices while driving. The law also prohibits drivers from viewing display screens unrelated to driving tasks (laptops, etc.) while driving. The use of hands-free devices is permitted and you may use a handheld device to dial 9-1-1 if necessary.

Driving requires full attention. Drivers who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to be in a collision than drivers who are focused on the road.

Cycling

Cycling is a healthy and inexpensive way to get around but you must know the rules and be equipped to ride responsibly. The Ontario Guide to Safe Cycling has information on handling skills, riding in traffic and more.

When riding your bike you should remember to wear a helmet and bright clothing so drivers can see you. Ride one meter from the curb or parked cars and ride in a straight line on the right side of the road in the same direction as traffic. Use hand signals early when turning or stopping so drivers know what you will do next.

Always stop at signs and red lights, for stopped school buses and public transportation vehicles as well as for pedestrians.  

Wearing a helmet

Wearing a helmet is imperative to safe cycling. A helmet absorbs the force of impact and spreads it out over the whole helmet. Your skull can crack just by hitting your head on the ground. You can also bruise your brain causing it to swell or bleed. Most brain injuries are permanent.

Here are some guidelines to a safe, properly-fitted helmet:

  • If you had a crash or dropped your helmet hard enough to crack the foam, replace it
  • The bottom of your helmet should be two fingers above your eyebrows
  • The V's in the straps of your helmet should fit under your ears
  • One finger should be able to fit under the strap beneath your chin

For more information on Road Safety, visit the Ministry of Transportation website.

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