Distracted driving, not impaired driving and speeding, is the leading cause of collisions on Ontario’s roadways, Supt. Scott Baptist said at the launch of the 2019 Drive Safe! campaign launch at Toronto Police headquarters on May 14.
The Service has issued 3,388 charges for distracted driving this year.
“In many instances, this involves the act of people picking up their phone and paying attention to it instead of their driving,” he said. “When you think about it, can’t that text wait a few minutes? Is that call so urgent that you have to take it right then? Do you really need to look at your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed right then? Are any of these things important?”
Baptist said that making that conscious choice to look at your phone can lead to devastating consequences for drivers, their families, friends or someone else.
“All collisions are avoidable and particularly in instances where distraction is a contributing factor and someone has made a conscious choice to divert their attention from the primary task at hand which is being the safe, controlled and lawful operation of their motor vehicle,” he said.
The Traffic Services Unit commander said this year’s Drive Safe! campaign is a commitment by police organizations to make a difference and stop distracted driving in its tracks.
Baptist noted that police can’t accomplish the enforcement alone.
“We need your help,” he said. “Talk with your family and friends and be a vocal advocate. People that engage in this reckless behavior need to be challenged. This is a community problem and it requires a community fix to it.”
Read the2019 Drive Safe Campaign Booklet
Ontario now has some of the strictest distracted driving legislation.
Drivers caught and convicted for a distracted driving offence will receive a fine of nearly $615. They will also incur three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.
“One other little surprise will be facing you the next time you have to renew your car insurance,” said Baptist, one of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Traffic Committee co-chairs, warned drivers. “Your premiums will take a serious hit. Insurance companies know the devastating impact of distracted driving and, once convicted, you represent a significantly higher risk for them to insure you.”
This year’s theme is Distracted Driving Ruins Lives. Drive Safe.
Ontario Provincial Police Chief Supt. Chuck Cox is the other OACP Traffic Committee co-chair.
He said the Drive Safe! campaign supports the tremendous efforts by police officers to make every roadway across the province safe for everybody.
“Our roads and highways are among the safest in North America which is a fact we can all be proud of,” said Cox. “But far too many people are still seriously injured or even killed on Ontario roads. When it comes to traffic safety, one death is too many.”
The 2019 Drive Safe! (#DriveSafe) campaign features a booklet with information designed to make motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians more aware of what distracted driving is, the consequences of driving while distracted, and tips on how to avoid being distracted while on the road.