While efforts by governments, police, and organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have been successful in reducing the number of impaired drivers on our roads, and changing attitudes towards the reprehensible action, the reality is every day there are still stories of families being torn apart by the actions of others.
Those who drive while impaired by alcohol and drugs face not only legal consequences but potentially also the scorn of friends, family, co-workers, and society in general.
However, can the same be said for distracted drivers?
While impaired driving has been a problem for decades, drivers fixated on their smartphones or other devices is a contextually new issue.
If someone we know is convicted of impaired driving, or even injures or kills someone as a result, the first reaction would be to view them in a highly negative light, and rightly so.
But in a similar situation with a distracted driver, would they face the same condemnation?
The decision to answer that phone call or text when driving on a busy city street or highway is as much a failure in common sense as getting behind the wheel after having too many drinks.
For those who argue that distracted driving is a niche offence, research shows they cause as many, and in some areas, more, causalities than impaired driving. It appears the message has not been getting through to many motorists, but those who choose not to heed the warning will face more severe penalties in the near future.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, fines for first-time offenders will double from $490 to $1,000 with a loss of three demerit points.
A second offence will lead to a fine of up to $2,000 and a seven-day license suspension, while a third can yield a fine up to $3,000 and a 30-day suspension.
Distracted drivers can also face charges of careless or dangerous driving, which both can lead to extended suspensions and even jail time.
Heftier penalties are a good start, but to really make an impact on distracted driving, we must end the stigma that putting the safety of ourselves and others at risk to fulfill our need to be constantly glued to a smartphone is any less disgraceful than operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.