Distracted driving stats going backward
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
Another long weekend. Another dramatic gas price hike, this time blamed on refinery shutdowns caused by hurricane Harvey (but when was the last time prices didn’t spike before a long weekend?). And another OPP safety blitz aimed at reducing distracted driving.
And, unfortunately for you, another editorial asking yet again: When are we going to start getting the message on distracted driving?
Earlier this week, Ontario Provincial Police released statistics showing distracted driving causes more crashes than speeding and impaired-related collisions combined. That has been the case every year since 2009, except for 2012, which was an anomaly.
So far this year, 47 people have died due to inattentive drivers. That’s up from 39 who died in the same period last year. There have been a shocking 6,360 distracted-driving collisions on OPP-patrolled roads since the beginning of the year, compared to 4,700 caused by speeding and 1,158 caused by drug or alcohol impairment.
And collectively, we still aren’t getting the message. What will it take?
Just about a year ago, laws were toughened. The minimum fine for drivers caught using electronic devices went from $280 to $490, and guilty motorists were hit with three demerit points on their licences. Three-time losers now have their licences suspended.
And still, the trend continues — more collisions, deaths, injury and property damage. Apparently, the tougher new laws don’t go far enough. Some argue distracted driving should be treated like impaired driving. That could mean suspension of driving privileges for a year, a fine of not less than $1,000, potential vehicle impoundment and participation in counselling at the driver’s own cost.
Others don’t support going that far. They point out that we may still be in learning-curve territory. Think back — if you’re old enough — to the days when seatbelts became mandatory. There was of period of several years before real societal change began. We now have nearly full compliance. And while we still have a serious problem with impaired driving, it’s fair to say that stiffer penalties and public education have and continue to have an impact.
We’re on the side that says the government should not hesitate to toughen penalties again. Maybe that will kick-start common sense.