Toronto Police ticketed 670 drivers for using hand-held devices while operating their vehicles during a one-week distracted driving campaign from January 14 to 20.
Officers were on foot, bicycles, unmarked police vehicles, pick-up trucks and on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) buses and streetcars during the blitz.
“The fact that we were able to nab so many drivers just goes to show the level of the problem,” said Sgt. Brett Moore of Traffic Services. “Once they were caught, we got all the excuses and tears in some cases. It’s just selfishness, and hopefully, drivers get the message through this enforcement operation.
“The bigger message, though, is that we have got people talking about driving while distracted. The conversation that happened for a week is more impactful than the tickets issued.”
There’s a $615 fine for a first offence.
At a news conference at Traffic Services on January 8, Superintendent Scott Baptist said officers have noticed a trend where drivers are trying to hide their cell phones on their laps while operating a motor vehicle.
“We are committed to getting the message out to people in the city that distracted driving is a conscious choice and one that must change,” he said. “Our goal is to change this behaviour. Please help us prevent needless injury and tragedy on our roads. Put your phone down. That’s the only smart choice.”
Baptist said a tag and tow initiative to clear rush-hour routes will mainly target the downtown core.
“There will be enforcement everywhere in the city as there always is, but the primary focus is going to be downtown," he said.
During the blitz, police will issue $150 tickets to any motorist found stopped in a No Stopping area downtown. They will also tow vehicles that have been left unoccupied in a curb lane.
“It is disappointing in a way that we have to keep doing these blitzes, but human beings being what they are, tend to slip back into the old ways not long after you finish the previous blitz,” said Mayor John Tory. “So I think it is necessary to continue to have these. How (police) do it is up to them as a matter of operations, but I hope they are relentless.”
Tory, who also sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, said police have issued over 6,000 tickets and towed more than 1,000 vehicles during lane-blocking blitzes in the last four years.
“While we would like to make those numbers lower and have fewer people that deserve a ticket or tow, the bottom line is that these blitzes make sure that people are tagged and towed if they are not following the law,” he said.