OPP says many just can’t resist answering, texting back

distracted driver

Barry Gray,The Hamilton Spectator
Even with increased fines, some drivers persist in using their cellphones while they are behind the wheel. This driver was spotted Sunday on Dundurn near Main.

Some people fined for using a cellphone while driving on the weekend were aware of the penalties that went up last week, but said they were just on it momentarily.

But provincial police Const. Kevin Westhead says many drivers just can’t resist answering or texting back.

“That’s what causes so many collisions … Just tap, tap, tap and all of a sudden, they are up someone’s bumper,” Westhead says. “It just takes that second of looking down …”

Hector Vila of St. Catharines felt it was just his bad luck to be seen by a cop.

Vila and his wife got pulled over on the QEW in Burlington Sunday afternoon after he was observed looking down and having only one hand on the wheel.

“Our son in St. Catharines — he called his mom, wanting to order pizza. And I grabbed the phone and said ‘No, go get KFC,'” he said after getting ticketed. “And of course he (the officer) saw me … That’s our luck, I guess.”

Vila had been aware of the new stiffer fines that came into effect a week ago.

“There is all kinds of advertisements about it. Our fault, I guess.”

Fines are now $490 and include an automatic three demerit points on your driver’s licence.

The OPP are waiting to see this past long weekend’s statistics on the number of distracted driving tickets to see if the new fines are a deterrent.

Toronto resident Aleksandr Ysnogorodsky, pulled over near Appleby Line in Burlington, said he was just turning his cellphone off when Westhead saw him with it in his hand.

“Someone called me. I had to turn it off while driving, and that’s it,” he said with a shrug and then pointed out his Bluetooth connection that lets him talk hands-free. “Even when I talk, I don’t keep it in my hand.”

Moments earlier Ysnogorodsky could be seen texting intently on his cell while driving — one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding the phone and texting. He glanced at the road ahead a few times but was oblivious to Westhead driving beside him in the next lane. The officer had to activate his siren and lights to get his attention.

Westhead patrolled the QEW all weekend for distracted drivers and says, “A lot of people — I was surprised — knew about the new charges and yet they still were doing it.”

It’s astounding how many drivers on their cells are oblivious to him, even when he’s in a marked cruiser, he says.

“How distracted do you have to be to not see me?”

On Saturday afternoon, Hamilton police constables Kevin Anders and Ali MacLennan were also pulling people off the road near Barton Street East and Centennial Parkway in Stoney Creek for using their cellphones while driving.

MacLennan says the enforcement is aimed at reducing crashes and deaths.

“Distracted driving is up there with impaired driving for causing collisions and fatalities.”

Trevor Ziebarth, another of the drivers fined, said, “I just glanced at my GPS (on my phone). It has to be mounted, I guess.”

Ziebarth, too, was already aware fines were recently increased and says, “I definitely don’t talk on it or text.”

After confirming the fine was over $400, he said “Oh geez, just so I can check where I’m going? I think there are worse perpetrators out there than me glancing at the GPS, but what are you going to do?”

Source: The Hamilton Spectator