OPINION / Letter to the Editor at Simcoe.com
By now, we all know that distracted driving is a hazardous and potentially deadly activity.
But, much like drunk driving, some people just can’t seem to stop doing it.
Just how dangerous distracted driving has become is illustrated in OPP statistics from 2017 and from the recent March break.
In 2017, inattentive drivers caused the most casualties (83) on OPP-patrolled roads for the fifth consecutive year. Since provincial distracted driving laws took effect in 2009, nearly 700 people have been killed in collisions that involved an inattentive driver.
Last year, the OPP responded to 8,711 crashes that were linked to driver inattention.
A CAA poll revealed that distracted driving is tied with drunk driving as the No. 1 safety concern for drivers.
Research shows that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision.
If you drive there’s little chance that at some point you have not seen another motorist engaged in talking or texting on a cellphone. Some have even spotted motorists shaving while behind the wheel.
But, even for police, the numbers of reported distracted drivers stopped over the March break was an eye-opener.
The OPP laid 2,462 charges against drivers using hand-held devices behind the wheel over the break.
In Orillia, where one would think drivers might err on the side of caution given the presence of OPP headquarters, police nonetheless nabbed 13 alleged distracted drivers in a single day, and 29 over the course of the week.
In Wasaga Beach, Stayner and Clearwater, 211 drivers were charged.
Those convicted faced a $490 fine (which includes victim surcharge and court fee if settled out of court) and three demerit points. And should police determine a distracted driver endangered others, additional charges of careless driving with the resulting fines can be levied.
So, how best to reverse this alarming trend?
More aggressive messaging campaigns are one option. Perhaps more vivid advertising images, might turn this problem around.
It’s true that heart-rending campaigns have been waged against drunk driving and people still get behind the wheel while intoxicated. But if you can change the behaviour of even a small fraction of drivers, you could still be saving lives.
Certainly the time for letting drivers off with a warning is long over.
Whatever the approach, it’s vital that younger drivers are educated to the dangers of distracted driving, and that older drivers can set an example for them to follow.