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OPP keeping close watch on distracted drivers

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Pay attention to driving on our highways and roads this weekend, Ontario Provincial Police are urging motorists.

OPP have launched a distracted driving campaign during the Labour Day weekend, and have the hard numbers, as of mid-August, to show the necessity. Provincial police have investigated 38 road deaths in which an inattentive driver was involved, compared to 19 deaths involving an impaired driver, this year.

For the first time since Ontario distracted driving laws were introduced in 2009, OPP report that driver inattention-related road deaths are poised to double the number of impaired-related deaths.

“Quite simply, this is preventable,” said Insp. Pat Morris of OPP Orillia. “It is apparent that many drivers are not getting the message.

“Officers are constantly seeing local drivers operating hand-held devices while driving.”

Police want passengers to take a pro-active approach to distracted driving as well.

“Don’t be a passenger of a distracted driver. Recognize that they are endangering your life. Speak up and insist that they focus on the road and on safe driving,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, provincial commander of traffic safety and operational support.

“By not doing so, you are contributing to the problem.”

The 2016 Labour Day weekend traffic initiative will begin at midnight, Friday, Sept. 2 and end at midnight on Monday, Sept. 5.

Since 2009, OPP have investigated more than 600 road deaths that involved a distracted driver.

OPP are also calling on Ontarians to develop a similar level of public intolerance to dangerous drivers that exists with impaired drivers.

While both distracted and impaired driving is equally threatening to the safety of motorists, this latest data has the OPP calling for a heightened awareness of the prevalence of distracted drivers - and the risks they pose on our roads.

When you are riding with a distracted driver, know that when their eyes are on their phone or they are distracted by something else; those eyes are not on the road and you are not safe, police say.

“As families enjoy the last long weekend of the summer, it is important that everyone remember the dangers of distracted driving,” Blair said.

“Texting and driving is very dangerous, and puts everyone on the road at risk. This Labour Day long weekend, we remind everyone to follow the rules of the road, put down the phone and do their part to ensure a safe end to the summer.”

In partnership with the OPP, Ontario's Transportation Ministry has designated four ONroute Highway Service Centres as 'Text Stops', providing a safe way for drivers to stop and text.

The four service centre locations are King City, Cambridge North, Woodstock and Port Hope.

As this is the last long weekend of summer, with a new school term approaching, OPP expect a large volume of traffic on provincial highways. Many people will be travelling on vacation and some will be relocating to attend school. Police want to remind all drivers to ensure that any loads being hauled are properly secured.

Police will also be highlighting back to school safety, pedestrian safety and how eliminating distraction is not only important for drivers, but cyclists and pedestrians as well.

OPP are also reminding operators of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) they must be a licensed driver and wear an approved helmet. The ATV must also be licensed and insured. The only exception to these regulations is if the ATV is being used on your own personal property, and in this case the use of an approved helmet is also recommended.

While this year's OPP initiative will focus on distracted driving, it will still stress the other elements of what police call the Big 4 Casual Factors - speeding, not wearing seat belts and impaired driving, along with trail and marine safety.


Penalties for distracted driving

  • It’s against the law to use hand-held communication (cellphones) and electronic entertainment devices (DVD players, e-readers) while driving.
  • Simply holding a phone or other device while driving is against the law.
  • Drivers can use a hands-free device (Bluetooth), but only to turn it on and off or a mounted device (cellphone, GPS) as long as it's secure or not moving around while driving.
  • If convicted, the penalty faced depends on the kind of licence held and how long you’ve been driving.
  • If you have an A, B, C, D, E, F and/or G licence, you’ll face bigger penalties when convicted of distracted driving.
  • It's a fine of $490, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee), a fine of as much as $1,000 if a summons is received, or if you fight the ticket in court and lose – plus three demerit points.
  • Novice drivers holding a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences, but you won’t receive any demerit points.
  • Instead of demerit points you’ll face a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction, a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction, cancellation of your licence and removal from the graduated licencing system (GLS) for a third conviction.
  • To get your licence back, you’d have to redo the GLS program.

Source: OPP