Texting drivers deserve same treatment as other impaired drivers
There’s no excuse for putting petty needs ahead of the common good
All the lawmakers really need to do is add just a handful of words.
But first: a couple of weeks ago, a young woman in Winnipeg was sentenced for a crash she caused in 2010. Two people in another vehicle were killed, three others were injured (two seriously). The offender was 17 when she ran a red light on Winnipeg’s Bishop Grandin Boulevard.
As the judge described it, the teen’s “ability to drive was impaired by alcohol but she did not realize it at the time; she was texting on her BlackBerry; she was speeding, specifically travelling 96 kilometres an hour when the speed limit was 80 km/h; her vehicle was on cruise control; and there was no evidence of her braking or swerving to avoid the collision.”
It’s another car crash where texting has appeared promi- nently as part of the cause. Researchers have already pointed out that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident that than drivers who aren’t distracted by their phones.
It’s something you see every day, and it’s obvious, especially at traffic lights, when traffic is held up by the inevitable texter unaware that the light has changed, his or her driving abilities clearly impaired by the phones.
On Saturday, I watched a driver staring down at his phone, completely unaware that his car, which was at a red light, was ac- tually still moving, drifting forwards and off to the right into an adjacent lane, almost striking another vehicle.
Now, there are distracted driving laws and other rules against texting while driving. There are laws about cellphone use as well. But I think it’s time to up the ante, because the message simply isn’t getting across.
Right now, the impaired driving section of Canada’s Criminal Code reads like this: “253. (1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not, (a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or (b) having consumed al- cohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. (2) For greater certainty, the reference to impairment by alcohol or a drug in paragraph (1)(a) includes impairment by a combination of alcohol and a drug.”
Why not simply take the section that says “while the person’s ability to operate the vessel … is impaired by alcohol or a drug,” and add four words, so it says “alcohol, drug or an electronic device”?
I’ve suggested before that drivers who are involved in accidents while texting should pay additional damages. The truth is, they shouldn’t be driving at all. Let’s bring the penalties for drivers impaired by their cellphones into line with those imposed on all other impaired drivers, so that the texting drivers realize the dangers of their behaviour.
A texting-impaired driver would lose their licence for a period of time; their auto insurance costs would rise dramatically (and why shouldn’t they?) and they’d finally receive the kind of community disdain that citizens deserve when they put their own petty needs ahead of the common good.
Think of every single text you have ever received in your entire life. Is there even one that is so important that it is worth your life, and the lives of others, to receive it immediately? Of course not. It’s time for the punishment to fit the crime. Impaired drivers are impaired drivers, whether the impairment is alcohol or any other addiction.