In his report of an accident that killed two volunteer firefighters, Montreal coroner Michel Ferland recommended police seize the phones of drivers found to be texting while driving.
The recommendation came in a report of the investigation into the 2010 deaths of Hugo Pereira, 20, and Vincent Lamoureux, 22.
On Feb. 3, 2010, the two men were drinking in a bar on St. Denis St. in Montreal. With Pereira at the wheel, they set off to drive to their homes in Laval. They never made it.
When they reached the bridge that separates Montreal from Laval, Pereira lost control of the vehicle. The car left the road and smashed into a cement block at the foot of the bridge. The vehicle, together with the two occupants, then plunged into Riviere des Prairies. It was a week before the vehicle and the men's bodies were recovered.
Sun News Network reports Pereira had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and was speeding. And cellphone records indicated he was texting a woman he met in the bar and was planning to return to see her.
According to the coroner, if police have the power to seize the vehicles of drivers who speed or who drink and drive, then officers should have the power to seize cellphones of people who text while operating vehicles.
Jean-Marie De Koninck, chairman of Quebec's Road Safety Task Force says imposing higher fines for drivers will not be effective. De Koninck told CJAD News, "It demonstrates the seriousness of the problem if the coroner thinks that the fee is not sufficient, the penalty, and then we have to go further and seize the phone, I mean, this is really important, a major penalty."
Ferland is quoted by CTV News as saying it is just common sense that the chance of an accident is greater when the driver's eyes are off the road. The coroner also said people do not realize that vehicles can travel the length of a football field in a few seconds.
The coroner is recommending that cellphones of offending motorists be seized and held for a period of 30 days.
In 2011, 57,000 tickets were issued in the province Quebec for texting while driving. During the same period, five people lost their lives as the result of collisions involving texting and driving.