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Distracted Driving A Growing Concern: Ontario Up Fine

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[caption id="attachment_80791" align="aligncenter" width="480"]OPP 2013 Alert: Distracted Drivers Worse Than Impaired Drivers! OPP 2013 Alert: Distracted Drivers Worse Than Impaired Drivers! © Dmitry Ersler | Dreamstime.com[/caption]

On Monday, March 3rd, the Ontario Provincial Police released its official 2013 report about Ontario's driving-related fatalities, including startling news about the biggest cause of death on Ontario's roads.

The statistics in the report revealed that crashes caused by speeding and impaired drivers resulted in fewer fatalities than those caused by distracted drivers. Distracted driving resulted in a total of 78 deaths, while only 44 people died in speed-related crashes and 57 in impairment-related crashes.

Instead of watching the road and remaining alert, distracted drivers perform non-driving related tasks that make them look away from the windshield or lose focus, such as answering phones or texts, chatting while holding portable devices instead of using headsets, turning around to speak with passengers, playing games and watching video.

According to Brad Blair, the OPP's Deputy Commissioner, the numbers from 2013 reflect a growing loss of life caused by distracted drivers over the past few years. Since 2010, distracted drivers have killed a total of 325 people. Additionally, last year alone, the Ontario Provincial Police dealt with 19,000 charges related to distracted driving.

As the SUN points out, the growth of digtial media is likely the leading cause:

There's no denying the digital revolution has raced ahead of all distractions that have come before, with its smartphones, MP3 players and even hands-free technology that, while keeping motorists' eyeballs on the road, still siphons focus away from driving.

On February 18, Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice changed the fines related to distracted driving with a judicial order. As of March 18, the fine for distracted driving will increase to $280 from $155. It includes a $250 base fine, $5 court cost and $50 victim surcharge.

Bonkalo wasn't asked to rule on this topic or modify any aspect of the original 2009 legislation. It's believed she decided to make this change because of a significant increase in public concern about driver safety.

Additional restrictions and changes to current driving legislature in the province are expected soon. Distracted driving incidents could potentially earn drivers higher fines and demerit points.

In less than a fortnight, the fine for distracted driving in this province of just under 13 million people will spike to $280 from the current fine of $155.

Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo authorized the judicial decree which is set to take effect on March 18. Citing the fact that people are getting killed at the hands of drivers whose attention is taken off the road and onto tech gadgets in increasing numbers, the fine is increased as a deterrent and potential life-saving measure.

There is also a $5.00 court fee and $25 victim surcharge assessed to the driver, but those fees are included in the fine. What will it take to get tagged with the hefty fine? Having a cellphone or smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer screen visible to the driver is enough to warrant the fine. The one notable exception is for GPS navigation devices. It is curious if the same exception would apply to smartphones running GPS-enabled navigation applications. Given the screen sizes of some smartphone models, there is functionally little difference between a dedicated navigation device and a smartphone running an app to achieve the same result.

Constable Clint Stibbe of the Toronto police department approves of the increase in the fine. He states that an insufficient number of drivers are getting the message about the dangers of distracted driving. He said the problem is ongoing and many drivers simply refuse to set aside their tech gadgets while driving. He said he's seen people hold their steering wheels in place with their knees to free up their hands for texting. He's also seen the horrific accidents involved where people lose their lives be attributed to nothing more than distracted driving. For Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon, the new fine doesn't go far enough. His new bill would set a 3-point driving penalty and a $500 fine.

Below are some alarming statistics courtesy of the CAA:

  • Cell phones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2010)
  • 84% of distracted-driving-related fatalities in the US were tied to the general classification of carelessness or inattentiveness (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009)
  • 80% of collisions and 65% of near crashes have some form of driver inattention as contributing factors (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010)
  • Distracted drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a crash than attentive drivers (Alberta Transportation, 2011)
  • Driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year
  • Children are four times more distracting than adults as passengers, and infants are eight times more distracting than adults as passengers
  • Economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost productivity are at least $10 billion annually. That's about 1% of Canada's GDP! (Government of Canada)
  • In 2010, distracted driving was a contributing factor in 104 collision fatalities in British Columbia (RCMP)
  • International research shows that 20% to 30% of all collisions involve driver distraction (Alberta Transportation, 2011)

On the Web:
Distracted driving number one killer on Ontario roads
http://www.newstalk1010.com/news/2014/03/03/update-distracted-driving-number-one-killer-on-ontario-roads

Distracted driving caused more 2013 deaths than impaired driving: OPP
http://www.680news.com/2014/03/04/distracted-driving-caused-more-2013-deaths-than-impaired-driving-opp/

Distracted driving fines increase to $280 on March 18
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/02/25/ontario_increasing_distracted_driving_fines_on_march_18.html

Sean is a London (Ontario) based writer, and has been writing full-time for eCanadaNow since May of 2005, covering Canadian topics and world issues. Since 2009, Sean has been the lead editor for eCanadaNow. Prior to his work writing and editing for the eCanadaNow, he worked as a freelancer for several Canadian newspapers.. You can contact Sean at {Sean at ecanadanow.com] Google

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