In an effort to curb distracted driving, all Toronto officers will be on the lookout for people using a mobile device while driving.
That Text or Call Could End It All traffic safety campaign began early Tuesday morning with a hearse to pull over distracted drivers to remind people of the real danger behind using a phone behind the wheel.
“It only takes a second to lose a life, whether it is yours or someone else’s,” said Traffic Services Constable Clint Stibbe, of the idea of using a hearse as a way for people to realize their own mortality. “We have to keep in mind that anyone who is operating a motor vehicle has to focus on the task at hand and by distracting themselves they can lose their life or kill someone else.”
While collisions caused by distracted driving are widely under-reported, in the last several years there have been three fatal accidents directly attributed to distracted driving.
“It is very under-reported, the chance of someone admitting they were using the phone prior to a collision,” explains Stibbe, warning drivers that, although they may be using their cellphones and may not have gotten into an accident, sooner or later it will happen.
“It’s a snap of your fingers, that’s all it takes… that one second can cost somebody their life.”
The fine for using your cellphone or entertainment device is $280.
While the fine is $280, the fine for careless driving can be up to $2,000 and six demerit points, says Stibbe. Things such as eating, putting on your makeup and even switching your radio channel and causing an accident falls under careless driving.
“You spill coffee on our lap, you look down and you have no idea what’s going on ahead of you,” says Stibbe, of the dangers of seemingly simple acts like sipping your morning coffee on the way to work.
“You have to keep in mind that a vehicle travelling at 100km/h travels quite the distance in the few seconds it takes to look up. The problem is traffic can suddenly stop or someone can step out on the road – and that’s all it takes for you to take somebody’s life.”
Drivers who were cautioned by Stibbe today, as part of the campaign, were all looking down at their cellphones while stopped at traffic lights – which is still illegal.
It’s a snap of your fingers, that’s all it takes… that one second can cost somebody their life
Sherif Yousuf, given a caution, was doing exactly that.
“I was in traffic, the light was red, and I got a text message,” said the driver, who says he doesn’t text and drive but, on this occasion, was distracted by a WhatsApp message. “I know it’s wrong,” he added.
The same happened to Catherine, stopped near University Avenue and Elm Street – she didn’t receive a text – rather she was checking her cellphone out of habit. “I understand the danger,” said Catherine, who said she was extremely confused when a hearse pulled her over.
While most drivers understood the dangers of texting or using your phone while on the road, a disgruntled driver who got pulled over saw nothing wrong with using a phone while stopped at a red light.
“Honestly I don’t think it is dangerous when you are stopped,” said Andre, who added that the hearse was a “great disguise.”
Such attitudes are what need to change, says Stibbe.
“We need everyone to work together because police and the government can’t do it on their own. We need the public to work together as a group and embrace the laws we have in place.”