Sioux Lookout OPP taking part in March Break Distracted Driving Campaign
Tim Brody - Editor
If you’re behind the wheel, your attention should be on the road.
“That’s your number one job and responsibility,” shared Sioux Lookout OPP Community Safety/ Mobilization Officer, Constable Andrea Degagne.
Beginning on March 11, and running through to March 17, Sioux Lookout OPP officers will be participating in the OPP’s annual March Break Distracted Driving Campaign.
“During this week, we’re going to have a focus on distracted driving, so you might see officers doing check stops, where they are making sure your cell phones aren’t available, or if they are, they’re mounted. Just keeping our roads safe and making sure that people are informed,” Degagne said.
She reported that in 2018, 55 people were killed in crashes caused by inattentive driving on OPP-patrolled roads. Last year's distracted driving campaign resulted in 2,589 distraction-related charges, 64 of which were in the Northwest Region.
“That’s quite high… it’s too many,” she said of those numbers, adding, “It’s a very preventable cause of death on our highways.”
Degagne shared that this year, the penalties for distracted driving have increased. As of January 1, 2019, she said the minimum penalty rose to $615 from $490, with three demerit points on first conviction and six demerits if the driver has been convicted of the same offence in the past five years. Distracted driving charges also come with license suspensions, three days for a first conviction, seven days on the second, and 30 days for the third. Novice drivers face the same fines, but longer suspensions in lieu of demerit points.
“Driving distracted is actually anything that’s inattentive or taking your focus off the road. We have laws specific to distracted driving, that is a hand-held cell phone or communications devices… you aren’t allowed to hold a cell phone in your hand or media device of any kind. It can be mounted on your vehicle. If it’s mounted you can use it if it has a one touch button function to access an incoming or outgoing call. You can’t be scrolling through a playlist, changing a map, something like that,” she explained.
Degagne added that many vehicles come with one touch functionality built in now.
As for things like adjusting your radio, or eating or drinking while driving, Degagne informed, “Having that double-double behind the wheel isn’t officially distracted driving, but if it impacts your driving ability, you can be charged under careless driving.”
In Ontario, drivers can be charged under Highway Traffic Act section 130 and face a $400-$2,000 fine, up to six months in jail and an up-to-two-year licence suspension. You could also be charged with dangerous driving under the Criminal Code of Canada.
People can find answers to frequently asked distracted driving questions by visiting the Ministry of Transportation’s website, at http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/distracted-driving-faq.shtml.