Fire prevention officer Carson Cross speaks about the stop texting vehicle the local fire department gave to the Ontario Provincial Police on Monday morning. The gift coincided with the OPP March Break road safety campaign. He is joined by members of the OPP, Belleville Police Service, Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services and the Belleville Fire Department.

The Ontario Provincial Police launched their March Break road safety campaign on Monday morning and got a big boost from Belleville.

OPP officials were at Belleville Fire Hall No. 1 to take the keys to a heavily damaged Ford pickup truck, a truck demolished by its texting driver and used the last several years by the local fire department, police services and Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services to deliver the message of the perils of distracted driving.

OPP Insp. Paul Bedard said getting the damaged vehicle in front of drivers, and non-drivers helps drive home the dangers of distracted driving.

“We believe the visual aid has a positive effect on young people, they see what can happen on the highway,” said Bedard. “Some of the impacts we think will be positive is they will think this is wrong – I don’t want my mom and dad to be distracted by things in the car and it’s not just about having the phone in your hand. If a parent is reaching back to talk to the child because they are loud or have to pick something up, they are distracted, they are inattentive and they can cause collisions. As I indicated earlier, in 2017 we had 83 such fatalities in the province of Ontario, just on OPP patrolled roads.”

Bedard cautioned drivers the term distracted applies to much more than cellphones and other electronic devices.

“If you’re showing undue care and attention to the roadway such as putting on makeup and it’s causing that undue care and attention to alert one of our officers and they see something – they will charge you with careless driving,” he said.. “We need the community to know, we need you to help us stop this. No just us, but the OPP partners, the municipal police services, fire departments, ambulance services because we don’t like going to these collisions. They cause us undue hardship.”

Belleville fire prevention officer Carson Cross said the 2009 pickup truck came into the department’s possession a number of years ago after being involved in a collision with a tractor trailer on the 401.

“It was travelling on the 401 near Highway 37 and the person in the vehicle was distracted driving and went from 112 km/h to zero in a space of approximately 25 feet,” he said. “He actually moved the axle of the truck forward. When we came across it at the wrecking yard it was like Scarface – one side was good and one side was not so good. It gives a good visual message.”

Carson said the truck has driven the point home with younger children and has had a number of parents tell him their kids have reminded them of the truck they saw and not to text.

Bedard said the vehicle is now be housed at OPP headquarters in Orillia and will easily be moved around the province from its central location.

Cross said the vehicle has served his department well in delivering the message of stopping distracted driving.

“We’ve handed out over 20,000 decals and magnets that you see on the back of people’s cars that say, ‘Stop Texting’ so when you’re sitting at a set of lights and you think you’ll send a quick text, you look up and see that,” he said. “The OPP has a similar program and this truck will live on, going around the Toronto area and the province of Ontario. It’s been an excellent project because Hastings Quinte EMS, Belleville Police Service and Belleville Fire Department all contributed to make this happen and make our community safer.”

Source: Belleville Intelligencer