As cell phones have become more important in people’s everyday lives, so has the amount of time they spend using their phones. Increasingly, more people are using their mobile devices while they are driving, causing them to be distracted and endangering the lives of others on the roads.
Distracted driving by the numbers
In Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000. In 2015, the Ontario Provincial Police confirmed that distracted driving had become the top reason behind fatal car crashes, with 69 people dying in accidents in which distracted driving was a factor. This is compared to the 45 people who died in accidents where alcohol or drug impairment was a factor. While people understand that using a mobile device while driving is unsafe, a study conducted in 2014 found that 75 per cent of U.S. motorists would still text and drive even after admitting it was dangerous.
With distracted driving becoming so prominent, police forces have needed to crack down on the practice. But spotting a person who is texting and driving can be difficult sometimes. There is no quantitative test to check if a driver has been using their phone while driving. So, police officers have needed to get creative with how they catch drivers in the act of using their phones.
Creative tactics to prevent cellphone use while driving
Police officers in the York Region outside of Toronto have been catching distracted drivers while riding the bus. Officers will hop on buses and watch drivers passing by, jotting down descriptions of the driver and vehicle and telling other officers in cruisers following close by. They say that the higher vantage point allows for them to look into people’s cars easier. Cities like Regina have also started to use the strategy.
In Vancouver, traffic police have started to use camera scopes to catch distracted drivers in the act. The scopes can catch people on their phones from over a kilometre away, and can even snap a photo to prove it. In Calgary, police officers are being dispatched onto street corners to spot distracted drivers at intersections. Some are dressed in plain clothes or in uniform. These officers will note down the distracted drivers they see and tell a nearby officer in a cruiser who can pull them over.
Many police officers have used the strategy of disguising themselves to catch distracted drivers. In Vancouver, cops have disguised themselves as construction road workers to pull people over. Cops have also disguised themselves as hydro workers and pretended to work from cherry pickers above the street, but they were actually catching people on their phones while driving. RCMP officers in Manitoba disguised themselves as homeless people. They would stand on the side of the road holding what appeared to be panhandler signs, except a closer look would show that they were cops catching distracted drivers. This strategy has been used in many cities now, including Ottawa, Toronto, Burlington and even in the U.S.
Police forces in the United States have also been cracking down on distracted driving. Cops in Tennessee have been known to ride in semi-trucks so they can sit higher up on the road to catch drivers using their cell phones. In Massachusetts, officers can be seen riding up and down the roads on bicycles to prevent texting and driving. In Idaho, officers have used school buses to nab distracted drivers.
The cost of driving while texting
In Ontario, when a driver is caught texting while driving, they will face a fine of $400 plus a victim surcharge and court fee for a total of $490 if settled out of court. The driver can also face a fine of up to $1,000 if they receive a summons to court or fight the ticket. Three demerit points will also be applied to the driver’s record.
Tips to avoid distracted driving:
- Plan your trip and know your route in advance. Make adjustments to your GPS before you start driving.
- Put aside your electronics while driving, away from reach if possible.
- If driving with other people in your car, enlist in their help with navigating or using your phone so you can focus on the road.
- If you’re a passenger and your driver is distracted, be proactive and help them so they are not using their phone or doing other tasks while driving.
Distracted driving is on the rise, and it’s important to stay alert while driving and preventing the practice. If you have been injured in an accident, either in your vehicle or as a pedestrian, contact us today to learn about how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.