Provincial Transport Minister Laurent Lessard wants stiffer law against drivers using mobile devices

Quebec Transport Minister Laurent Lessard

Quebec Transport Minister Laurent Lessard wants the federal government to introduce harsher laws against texting and driving. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

Quebec is asking the federal government to examine the possibility of criminalizing the use of cellphones while driving.

Laurent Lessard, the province’s new transport minister, wants his federal counterpart Marc Garneau to look into the matter.

Lessard’s comments come on the heels of a Quebec coroner’s report that recommended the Criminal Code be amended.

Coroner Michel Ferland said the federal government should make driving while texting or talking on the phone a criminal offence in the case of death or injury.

As it stands, cellphone use while driving is only considered a violation of the Quebec Highway Safety Code, not a criminal offence.

Lessard said it will be on the agenda when he next meets Garneau.

He also said the provincial government is looking into introducing stiffer fines and demerit points for cellphone use while driving as part of the Highway Safety Code.

Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellphone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash event compared with non-distracted drivers, according to a recent U.S. study.

Tools already in place, feds say

A person holds an iPhone behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Cell phone use while driving is a growing problem, studies suggest.

Joanne Ghiz, a spokeswoman for the federal justice department, said law enforcement already has tools to deal with those who use a cellphone while driving.

“Using a handheld cellphone while driving, or texting while driving, can already be prosecuted under existing provisions of the Criminal Code when this behaviour becomes ‘dangerous driving,'” she said in an email.

Dangerous driving causing bodily harm is an indictable offence punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years, while dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of 14 years, she said.

Source: CBC News Montreal