A woman holds up a Blackberry phone and a traffic ticket behind the wheel of a vehicle.Distracted driving related deaths have almost tripled since this time last year in Ontario. This year there have been 11 deaths on OPP patrolled roads compared to four at the same time last year.

During the March break alone the Ontario Provincial Police laid 2,400 distracted driving related charges in the province.

There were 740 collisions in Elgin County in 2016 and 106 of them were related to distracted driving. None of the four fatal collisions were connected to distracted driving but Constable Adam Crewdson said it’s difficult to determine whether they were the result of distracted driving if there were no witnesses and/or drivers don’t tell police the truth.

Sergeant Dave Rektor said the reason that people continue to drive while they’re distracted is elusive considering the damage that can be caused as a result of it.

“If we could bottle the answer we could end a lot of carnage on our highways,” Rektor said.

Driving distracted is a self-centred behaviour that can have a ripple effect that can injure people and end lives. Sometimes the distraction is accidental like a child screaming in the car, but most often it’s intentional distraction, Rektor said.

“More often than not, and a large percentage of the time it’s people texting or talking or their phones,” Rektor said.

Rektor said distracted driving goes beyond being a police issue, but is a societal problem.

“It’s one that we’d obviously like to see abolished,” Rektor said. “We really need drivers to take ownership of their bad driving behaviour and stop driving distracted.”

Rektor said distracted driving also falls into the hands of passengers who, he said, should speak up when they see someone texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Distracted driving comes with a $490 ticket for those who are caught. That fee can go up to $1,000 depending on the discretion of the courts.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a deterrent for some,” Rektor said.

Police have a variety of way to catch people who were using their phones when they get in an accident, including witnesses, other drivers involved and passengers.

“If there’s a collision and we believe that a phone is involved then we can certainly form part of the investigation and get a warrant for the records of the phone to find out what the last transmission time was, location of the last transmission,” Rektor said.

Source: St. Thomas Times-Journal