Campaign will see increased police enforcement of distracted driving laws

Graham Paine/Torstar
Halton police have deployed several cruisers equipped with Panasonic Canada side and rear-mounted high definition cameras to capture evidence of distracted drivers.

Halton police have announced that they will be coming down hard on distracted drivers as part of a new initiative.

Officers launched project “#ItCanWaitHalton” during a ceremony at police headquarters on Monday, Oct. 28.

The project, which was organized by Halton police and the Halton Region, features a two-week campaign.

The first week (Oct. 28 to Nov. 3) will focus on raising public awareness and education through social media, digital and print signage about the risks and impacts of distracted driving.

The second week (Nov. 4 to Nov. 8) will see ongoing efforts to educate the public, but also increased enforcement of distracted driving laws across the region.

“Our goal is to positively influence driver behaviour and increase traffic safety by reducing the use of hand-held devices while driving,” said Halton police Sgt. Milenko Cimbur.

“Year after year, members of our community have told us that distracted driving is a significant concern. We are so incredibly grateful to have such an engaged community that recognizes and understands that road safety is a shared responsibility. We hear you.”

Those present also heard from Halton police Deputy Chief Jeff Hill who talked about just how prevalent distracted driving is in Halton.

“Every day, during both day shifts and night shifts, our officers routinely observe motorists throughout the region driving while distracted. Our officers see motorists operating cellphones in their laps, holding their cellphone like a microphone in front of their mouths, typing their destination into their cellphone GPS while driving and so much more,” said Hill.

“All these activities are illegal, but more importantly they place the motorist who is driving distracted, and other road users, at risk.”

Hill said driving distracted is a real danger, noting that in the time it takes for a driver to type a text message their vehicle can travel the length of a football field.

He said taking your eyes off the road for even just two seconds doubles your chances of having a collision.

“The bottom line is that injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving are 100 per cent preventable. There is no excuse,” said Hill.

“That is why here in Halton Region we are coming together to remind drivers that Halton is a hands-free community … I hope all drivers in the region will play their part and drive responsibly. Put your phone down and remember, it can wait.”

Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Meghani said — as a road user and the Halton medical officer of health — distracted driving has been a concern for her for a number of years.

She said an estimated 21 per cent of fatal collisions and 27 per cent of serious injuries collisions can be attributed to distracted driving.

Meghani also noted that in a survey nearly one in 10 Halton adults admitted to frequently driving while using a cellphone (not hands free).

She said one in four Halton adults admitted to reading or writing a text, or emailing, while driving.

“That’s a lot hands not on the wheel and eyes not on the road,” said Meghani.

“Despite stronger penalties for distracted driving convictions more people are sending or reading text messages while driving than ever before. It’s time to keep our focus where it needs to be. On driving.”

Ontario’s distracted driving law states that while driving, including when stopped in traffic or at a red light, it is illegal to:

  • Use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or call — you can only touch a device to call 911 in an emergency;
  • Use a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console;
  • View display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video; and
  • Program a GPS device, except by voice commands.

For tips on how to avoid distracted driving and to engage in the conversation, follow #ItCanWaitHalton over social media or visit halton.ca.

Residents are reminded they can report a distracted driver through the Halton police Road Watch online reporting tool.

To learn more visit haltonpolice.ca.