The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have kicked off their annual Distracted Driving campaign this week (March 14-20), to note driver distraction remains the number one factor in road deaths, with 2015 marking the third straight year as the leading cause.
Last year, 69 people died in road crashes where driver distraction was a factor, followed by speed-related deaths, seat belt-related deaths and 45 alcohol/drug-related deaths.
The OPP refers to number studies which have concluded distracted driving—such as texting or talking on a phone while driving—is as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For the past three years, OPP officers have handed out roughly 20,000 distracted driving charges province-wide, more than double the number of impaired driving charges issued over the same period.
J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner, said in a statement:
“If you are texting, talking on your cell phone or pre-occupied with other activities while behind the wheel, you are not driving safely. It does not suffice to keep your eyes on the road. Driving involves sharing space with drivers, their passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians and it is impossible to do so safely unless your eyes and mind are solely focused on driving.”
Aside from distracted driving charges related to cellphone use, the OPP says other charges continue to be laid against those eating, self-grooming, and tending to kids in the back seat, as examples.
With March break starting today, the OPP is encouraging passengers of all ages to take safety into their own hands, and “speak up when you are in vehicle being driven by someone who is not paying attention to the road and is endangering your life.”
Distracted driving charges in Ontario come with a $490 fine and three demerit points (fines increased by $210 back in September 2015).