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Distracted driving continues as top killer on Ontario roads

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

For the fourth straight year, being distracted at the wheel is the leading cause of death for drivers on Ontario’s roads, and it seems drivers are still not getting the message.

This year alone, 11 deaths have been linked to distracted driving in cases investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) – nearly triple the numbers seen this time last year, when four died as a result of inattentive drivers. This also tops the number of fatalities caused by speeding, alcohol and drugs, and seatbelt-related deaths.

“Road deaths linked to distracted drivers will not let up unless every road user says, ‘Enough is enough,’ and shows a complete intolerance for what continues to be the most life-threatening driver behaviour on our roads,” states Vince Hawkes, the OPP’s commissioner, in a news release.

“We want to see every Ontarian, especially passengers of all ages, take a firm stand against those who endanger their lives by using their cellphones or engaging in other forms of distractions behind the wheel.”

During their annual March Break distracted driving campaign, the OPP levelled over 2,400 charges related to distracted driving.

The streets of Durham Region are no exception, as DRPS’ Const. George Tudos notes that police are still levelling a number of different charges, despite the very public campaign of enforcement focused on Taunton Road (mainly targeting aggressive driving).

“Distracted driving is one of our main concerns,” Tudos says. “Speaking to officers, it’s still an issue out there on the roads.”

Since 2009, when distracted driving laws came into effect, police forces across the province have worked to educate the public about the dangers of picking up the phone behind the wheel and other inattentive behaviours. In 2015, Ontario stiffened the penalities for those caught breaking the law.

“Even putting that information out, people are not abiding by the rules,” Tudos says.

A driver convicted of distracted driving faces a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, a fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket, and three demerit points applied to your driver’s record.

However, Tudos says handing out tickets is not always the solution, and notes that DRPS continues to work to educate drivers about the law and the dangers.

“We give a lot of cautions out too,” he says. “A lot of times, it’s just about educating people on what the laws are and I’m pretty sure by now the majority of motorists or anybody operating a motor vehicle should know that these are the laws.”