Halton police say tough new distracted driving penalties coming January 2019

David Lea, Metroland
Halton Const. Norm Deneault recently issued his 5,000th distracted driver ticket.

The Halton Regional Police Service has announced that one of their officers recently issued his 5,000th ticket for distracted driving.

Const. Norm Deneault reached this milestone on Saturday (Aug. 18) when he handed out ticket No. 5,000 to a Burlington driver who actually had a previous conviction for using his phone while driving.

Halton police say they are not aware of another officer in Canada who has issued so many distracted driving tickets.

Deneault, who has spent 23 years with Halton police and had 10 years with Toronto police before that, said he recognized the chaos distracted driving was causing on local roads and started focusing on it in his patrols in 2010, shortly after new legislature made it an offence.

He said that while he enjoys doing his job and finds it rewarding, the fact that he has issued 5,000 tickets is not exactly reason to celebrate.

“If I wasn’t able to reach that level that would be fantastic because that would mean people weren’t out there doing this,” he said.

Distracted driving has become a key focus for Halton police and Deneault, who said it is now responsible for more deaths on Ontario’s roads than impaired driving.

He said when the law first changed, distracted drivers were easy to spot because they made no effort to conceal the fact they were talking on their cellphones and an officer in an unmarked cruiser had little difficulty catching them in the act.

Deneault said the arrival of higher fines and the growing popularity of texting eventually resulted in a new and more dangerous type of distracted driver, which he refers to as “lappers.”

“The lappers are the people that are holding the cellphone in their hand, but are hiding it down in their laps,” said Deneault.

“You see their head bobbing up and down, up and down and their eyes aren’t on the road, and that is why we are having so many rear-end collisions.”

Besides the head bobbing, he keeps an eye out for vehicles that slowly drift across their lane and then make a sudden shift back.

At night, Deneault said the glow of a cellphone lights a distracted driver up like a Christmas tree.

Deneault said distracted driving levels could be impacted by new penalties coming into effect in Ontario starting January.

These changes will see fines rise to $1,000 for a first offence, up to $2,000 for a second conviction and $3,000 for a third or subsequent incidents. The new legislation will also see an offender lose their licence for seven, 15 or 30 days upon conviction.

He said these changes will have real impacts on repeat offenders.

“I think there are people out there who will always try to hide it,” said Deneault.

“Yesterday, for example, I laid eight distracted driving charges. Of those eight, six had previous convictions, and that is sad because they didn’t learn the first time.”

Source: The Hamilton Spectator