OPP begins distracted driving campaign

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Distracted Driving Campaign is this week (March 12-18, 2018).

Police forces consider distracted driving as a form of impaired driving as a driver’s judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Texting is among the most dangerous activities to carry out while driving, but distracted driving refers to all forms of distracted or inattentive driving. Other examples include such things as talking on the phone, eating and drinking, personal grooming and tending to children in the vehicle. During the campaign, officers will be targeting these and any other forms of distraction they observe as impairing a motorist’s driving ability.

Electronic devise use has become more prevalent in the past years and has been the cause of numerous motor vehicle collisions. It is against the law to operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you are driving, or to view display screens unrelated to your driving. Examples of hand-held devices include:

  • IPods
  • GPS
  • Cell phones
  • Laptops and DVD players

Drivers are permitted to use any device that they do not touch, hold or manipulate while driving. For example, drivers can use a cell phone if they are using a “hands-free” function, but actions such as dialing or scrolling through contacts is not allowed when driving. Drivers can use a GPS, provided the GPS is mounted and they have imputed the information prior to driving. Media players are also permitted, but the playlist must be activated before driving. Simply, if the device causes you to focus on it when driving, then you are driving distracted.

Inattentive drivers were behind 83 road fatalities on OPP-patrolled roads in 2017, surpassing speed-related deaths (75), alcohol/drug-related deaths (46) and those that are linked to lack of seat belt use (49).

Since 2009 (the year Ontario Distracted Driving laws took effect), 692 have been killed on OPP-patrolled roads in collisions that involved an inattentive driver.

“By now, the majority of drivers and passengers have witnessed, had a close call or been involved in a collision with a driver who was texting, talking on their cell phone or engaged in some other form of distraction. Last year, the OPP responded to 8,711 crashes that were linked to driver inattention,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Provincial Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

Drivers who endanger others because of any distraction can be charged under the Ontario Highway traffic Act or even with Dangerous Driving, under the Criminal Code of Canada.

If convicted of distracted driving, a fully licenced driver will receive:

  • a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court
  • fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
  • three demerit points applied to your driver’s record
  • Drivers who endanger others because of any distraction, including hand-held and hands-free devices, may still be charged with Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act or even Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada. Both charges carry heavy fines and penalties.