A cellphone in your hand could lead to $1,000 out of your wallet

Ontario Provincial Police have a new tool in their arsenal to crack down on distracted drivers on Niagara’s highways.

And OPP Const. Rob Knight suspects some motorists who are using their cellphones rather than paying attention to the road ahead will be taken by surprise when they see the flashing lights of a police cruiser behind them.

“We have a vehicle that would not necessarily be recognized as a police cruiser. I can’t say what that vehicle is, but people might be surprised if they find themselves pulled over by police, and they were actually observed by officers in another vehicle they wouldn’t suspect,” he said.

Although seeing a marked police cruiser on the highway — or even an unmarked cruiser “if they’re paying attention” — could give a distracted driver an opportunity to put down a phone before they’re caught with it, Knight said “this vehicle they would not notice whatsoever.”

Knight said officers have used a tractor-trailer to observe drivers using cellphones — giving police a vantage point that allows a clear view of a phone on a driver’s lap, that would otherwise be impossible to see.

But as word spreads about vehicles being used for that purpose, he said police look for alternatives.

“And with this vehicle here, people won’t notice. But they will notice when they see the flashing lights.”

The OPP cracked down on distracted driving from March 11 to 17, leading to 1,508 charges across the province.

Knight said officers never stop keeping a watchful eye for distracted drivers — who could end up with a $1,000 fine for a first offence, as well as three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.

Distracted driving laws prohibit the use of a phone or hand-held wireless communication device, other electronic entertainment devices such as tablet or portable gaming console, or from viewing display screens that are not related to driving, such as playing a video.

It includes while stopped in traffic or at an intersection.

Although drivers can view GPS displays if they are securely mounted to the dashboard, Knight cautioned against focusing on a small display screen rather than the road. He instead recommended using devices equipped with bluetooth that provide audible directions.

“Your attention has to be properly on the road and what’s going on around you because things happen fast out there on the highways.”

Source: Niagara Falls Review