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article imageOntario: Distracted driving twice as deadly as driving drunk

By Arthur Weinreb     Aug 30, 2016 in Crime
Orillia - According to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), twice as many people will die on the province's roads as a result of distracted driving than will lose their lives because of someone driving while impaired.
In a statement issued yesterday, the OPP said deaths from drivers who are distracted are set to double from deaths that result from impaired driving. The statistics used by the provincial police force applies only to highways and smaller areas that are policed by the OPP rather than local police forces.
The OPP reports so far this year, 19 people have died on Ontario roads as a result of collisions involving impaired driving. This compares to the 38 deaths that resulted from "an inattentive driver." This is the first time since distracted driving was made an offence in 2009 that it has become twice as deadly as driving while a person's ability to drive has been impaired by alcohol or a drug.
Merely being distracted by something is not a specific offence. Under section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, penalties are provided only for the holding of or the use of hand-held devices capable of transmitting or receiving telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. Even with these limitations, drivers who are distracted by other means such as combing their hair or eating can fall under other sections such as careless driving.
According to the OPP, officers have investigated more than 600 deaths believed to have been caused by distracted driving since the offence first became law in 2009.
In the release, Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair urged passengers in cars driven by distracted drivers to speak up and insist the driver focus on the road. Blair added if passengers do not do this, they are part of the problem.
As distracted driving is only a provincial offence, a conviction leads to a fine of $490 plus three demerit points. A judge does, however, have the discretion to increase the fine up to $1,000. As Digital Journal reported earlier this month, two Quebec coroners forwarded recommendations to the federal Department of Justice to make distracted driving a crime similar to impaired driving. Penalties under the Criminal Code would include the possibility of jail and lengthy license suspensions. reports the OPP, in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, have created four areas designated as "text stops" where drivers can stop and use their hand-held devices.
The OPP will be conducting a safety blitz during the upcoming Labour Day weekend. Officers will be out in force on roads, waterways and trails in an attempt to make the weekend safe.
More about Ontario provincial police, distracted driving, Impaired driving, Driving drunk
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