If you don’t always pay attention to the road, then pay attention to this: the Ontario Provincial Police are conducting a Distracted Driving Campaign this week.

The goal: encourage people across Ontario to put down their phones and other devices and keep their hands on the wheel.

It’s not simply a public education campaign. Those caught driving with something in their hands — including food — are fined $490 and three demerit points.

“There are so many forms of distractions today and we’re seeing serious injury accidents as well as a number of fatalities,” OPP Const. Jim Root said Thursday. “With newer drivers coming onto the road, everyone seems to be attached to their cellphones. We’re trying to get the message across to the public to put their cellphones down while you’re at the wheel and concentrate only on driving.”

Ontario Provincial Police Const. Jeremy Kulwartian speaks to a driver he pulled over on Walker Road on March 16, 2017 that was texting while driving.

Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
Ontario Provincial Police Const. Jeremy Kulwartian speaks to a driver he pulled over on Walker Road on March 16, 2017 that was texting while driving.

The distracted driving blitz started Monday and ends Sunday, though the OPP will continue giving out tickets afterwards.

“It doesn’t take long for our officers to find people out there using their cellphones while driving,” Root said. “And unfortunately, until caught and given a $490 fine and a few demerit points some people don’t seem to be able to learn their lesson.”

A Windsor Star ride-along with the OPP on Thursday confirmed that it doesn’t take long to notice a distracted driver, even from the cramped confines of the back of a police cruiser — where bars on the windows and a lack of door handles provided a reporter a constricted view.

Mere minutes after parking in a largely hidden spot off Walker Road in the county, a pickup truck driver passed by with both hands on a phone and his forearms on the wheel.

The acceleration of the black, unmarked Charger in pursuit of the suspect suggested that it might not be wise to try to outrun an OPP vehicle.

After the texting driver pulled over, OPP Const. Jeremy Kulwartian approached the driver’s side window to explain the offence. The driver admitted he was texting, but was surprised at the cost of the infraction.

Kulwartian, who always jots down notes after roadside stops, said some people really seem to misunderstand the danger of distracted driving.

“We’re looking for people on their cellphones, or driving distracted in other ways,” he said. “Sometimes they’re steering with their knees, doing other things.

“We’ve gotten complaints of people on the road looking at a map, or eating, or other things.”

Contrary to what some people believe, you cannot dial a number while driving, even if you have a hands-free set. Nor can you text while you’re sitting at a stoplight. If you have anything in your hands while on a road, you are breaking the law.

Drivers must have their cellphone mounted to the dash to touch it. Or they must pull over to the side of the road if they need to use their hands to answer or place a call.

Kulwartian checks out the behaviour of drivers while he’s driving or while he’s stopped, and in any police car he uses.

But admittedly he has more success while driving unmarked patrol cars.

“Some days I won’t see anybody driving distracted, especially if I’m in a marked vehicle,” he said. “It’s a little harder then.

“Then when I’m in an unmarked car, there are days when I’ll see five to 10 distracted drivers.”

Source: Windsor Star