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Campaign targets distracted drivers

By Michael Lea, Kingston Whig-Standard
Monday, June 2, 2014 9:17:44 EDT PM

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The numbers are frightening.

Three hundred and twenty-five people died on Ontario roads between in 2010-2012 as a result of distracted driving, with 78 more fatalities last year. That compares to 57 who died last year due to impaired driving and 44 due to speed.

In Nova Scotia, the numbers are just as worrying. Over the last five years, a third of fatal crashes were due to distracted driving, making it the number one cause of deaths on the province's roads.

If you text and drive, your chance of being in a collision jumps by up to 400%. And just sending a quick text at highway speeds means you travel the length of a football field without looking up at the road.

Distracted driving is now a factor in up to 50% of all collisions in Ontario.

Concern over those numbers has prompted Kingston city police and the Ontario Provincial Police to hold their own distracted driving blitzes recently and the Kingston Partners for a Safe Community (KPSC) is now adding its own voice to the issue with June 1-7 being proclaimed "Leave the phone alone while driving" week in Kingston.

Wiebke Wilkens, president and co-founder of KPSC, which is in its 18th year of running campaigns to reduce injuries and accidents, announced the Ministry of Transportation has given the organization $2,000 to further promote the dangers of distracted driving in a Road Safety Challenge initiative.

As well as a public campaign, they will put four-person teams at four main intersections around the city on Friday to count how many people are driving while using their phones.

The numbers will be turned over to police to be used in their own programs.

"We take it seriously," said Kingston Police Staff Sgt. Jody Armstrong.

During a two-month crackdown on distracted driving, city police laid just over 180 charges.

"Certainly distracted driving has become the number one cause for motor vehicle accidents on our highways," he said.

Const. Mark Wellwood of the Frontenac detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police, agreed. He said distracted driving has surpassed impairment as a causal factor in accidents.

"When you are behind the steering wheel, just drive," he urged.

Wellwood said he has driven down Interstate 81 in New York State and has noticed large signs urging drivers to use the rest stops as text stops.

"It's fantastic, just to remind everybody that if they are going to text, if they need to answer their phone, pull over and do that. Those signs are there just to remind people that there is an opportunity, there is a place, because it is not safe to pull over on the side of (Hwy.) 401 either with everybody going by at 100 km/h. The safest thing you can do is pull into a rest stop, pull off the highway, answer any calls and any texts that you have to and then get back to your business of driving."

Interstate 81 also has signs that warn drivers that three convictions for texting while driving will cost drivers their licence.

Wellwood said Ontario doesn't have an equivalent punishment, but stressed appearing before a judge multiple times for the same offence is likely to earn you a much stiffer penalty.

"And every conviction you have, your insurance company is going to find out about and it's going to affect your insurance rates."

The fine for distracted driving recently increased to $280.

"So it's getting more expensive and I think down the road we can see points increasing as well as the fines increasing," said Wellwood. "It's very dangerous."

 

Related Links:

http://www.ckwstv.com/2014/06/02/leave-phone-alone-campaign/

http://www.ckwstv.com/2014/06/06/leave-the-phone-alone-while-driving/