A man holds a smartphone while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

City police are still handing out multiple distracted driving tickets every day in Brockville, according to police.

Are you guilty of checking your phone while behind the wheel?

Many are, according to the Brockville Police Service, which is calling attention to what it deems an alarming number of drivers in the city who persist in using their phones while driving, despite the fact that distracted driving has become the leading cause of death on the roads.

Constable Daniel Hall of the city’s police service said even though the offence of driving while texting is proving as dangerous as driving intoxicated, officers are still handing out tickets for infractions multiple times a day in Brockville.

“I can tell you it’s around 50 charges per month under (the hand-held communication device law) and $25,000 in fines,” Hall said on Tuesday.

“I can also tell you I have personally laid 13 charges for cell phones in one day – $6,300 in fines – keeping in mind I still have to respond to calls and carry out other duties throughout the day.”

For the first time since distracted driving laws were introduced in 2009, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is also reporting that driver inattention-related road deaths are poised to double the number of impaired-related deaths on provincial roadways this year.

Hall said local statistics were difficult to pinpoint, but this year, to date, there have been 38 traffic fatalities in Ontario which can be contributed to distracted driving, while 19 fatalities are related to impaired driving.

“It’s hard to drive anywhere and not see people using their cell phones at a red light or driving in traffic,” said Hall.

Since 2009, OPP officers have investigated more than 600 road deaths that involved an inattentive driver, according to a release, and this upcoming long weekend, they’ll be out in force in a bid to keep those numbers down.

The OPP is also calling on Ontarians to develop a similar level of public intolerance of dangerous drivers that exists in regards to impaired drivers.

The provincial force will launch its Distracted Driving Campaign over the Labour Day weekend.

“While both of these driving behaviours are equally threatening to the safety of road users, this latest data has the OPP calling for a heightened awareness of the prevalence of distracted drivers and the risks they pose on our roads,” a release from the OPP said this week.

Hall confirmed the offence comes with a $490 fine and at a cost of three demerit points and is now “considered a major offence by most insurance companies.”

One major recent change applies to novice drivers, including a 30-day suspension upon conviction for the first offence, followed by a 90-day suspension for the second and a total licence cancellation for the third, something the local police force has “already been seeing since the new penalties took effect in September 2015,” Hall said.

The licence cancellation requires the individual to reapply and start from scratch once the Ministry of Transportation allows.

“Don’t be a passenger of a distracted driver. Recognize that they are endangering your life,” said OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair in a statement.

“Speak up and insist that they focus on the road and on safe driving.

“By not doing so, you are contributing to the problem,” he said.

Source: The Brockville Recorder