OPP very serious – going into week two of distracted driving campaign

“Put your Device Down and Pay Attention to the Task At Hand” says OPP

 (ORILLIA, ON)– Ask Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner Chris Lewis what causes him great concern onOntario roads

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HEY! YOU! Shuddup and put that cell phone down! Photo by Bobby Jones.

andhighways these days and he will say it is the number of distracted drivers talking or texting on cell phones.

 This is why from July 11-17, 2011the OPP is launching Week #2 of its four-week Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other Distracted Driving Campaign to ensure that those who do not comply with distracted driving legislation are dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

 During Week #1 of the campaign (May 16-22, 2011), OPP officers throughout the province laid more than 1,600 Highway Traffic Act (HTA) charges relating to distracted driving and according to Commissioner Lewis, there is much more to come.

 “My busy job as OPP Commissioner involves that I travel our roads and highways regularly and I am astounded and dismayed at the number of drivers I see talking or texting on cell phones over the course of my travels.  These people have no regard for the safety of their passengers or the people travelling around them whose lives they can end in a split second”.

– Chris Lewis, OPP Commissioner.

During the campaign, the OPP is ramping up enforcement efforts, stopping any drivers caught using a hand-held communications or other entertainment device. They will also be watching for and stopping motorists who exhibit careless driving due to distractions such as adjusting the radio, eating while driving or searching for something in their vehicle.

“The driving ability of distracted drivers is as compromised as that of impaired drivers and they just as dangerous to the lives of road users.  Just ask those who were engaged in a phone call or text messaging with a family member or friend who was behind the wheel at the time and died in a collision while tending to that call or texting activity”. Distracted Driving – Testimonials from People Touched by Tragedy.

– OPP Deputy Commissioner Larry Beechey, Provincial Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) ranked the distracted driver as its number one concern on the roads in 2010.  The OPP has responded to this alarming issue by adding distracted driving to its list of causal factors for death and injuries onOntariohighways.

Education is a critical component in raising awareness about distracted driving and throughout the campaign OPP personnel will be working with the media, schools, other law enforcement partners, road safety advocates, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Using a cell phone or device capable of texting while driving can result in a fine of $155 under Section 78.1 of the HTA.  Watching an entertainment device can result in a fine of $110 under Section 78 of the HTA. Other forms of distracted driving can result in a charge of Careless Driving with fines ranging from $400 to $2,000, a possible licence suspension of up to two years and/or a jail term of not more than six months.

Fast Facts on Distracted Driving 

  • In 2010, the OPP charged 8,522 drivers under Section 78.1 of the HTA for using a hand-held device while driving.
  • Police began enforcing the new distraction legislation in January 2010.
  • In 2010, there were 7,733 collisions on OPP-patrolled roads where the driver was deemed to be inattentive/distracted, resulting in 35 deaths, 1,040 injuries and considerable property damage. (Note: The preceding statistics refer to all forms of distracted/inattentive driving, not just the use of hand-held devices as outlined in Section 78.1, HTA.)
  • A recent study by researchers at theUniversityofUtahconcluded that drivers on mobile phones are more impaired than drivers driving over the legal Blood Alcohol Content limit.  A Canadian Automobile Association poll of 6,000 Canadian drivers found that “texting while driving” is the single biggest traffic safety concern of drivers while on the road.
  • A recent Ontario Health E-Bulletin indicated: “Teen-driver car crashes remain the leading cause of permanent injury and death inCanada, theUnited Statesand almost every industrialized nation world wide”. The main culprit is teenage overconfidence in emerging driving skills and a failure to acknowledge personal limitations. Teenagers falsely believe they can “drive distracted” without increasing the risk of a serious collision.
  •  Links
  • What is Distracted Driving?Tips on Managing Driver Distraction

    Canadian Automobile Association Poll