Campaign targets distracted drivers
Police on buses laid 4,500 charges over 2016
A new campaign by the York Regional Police ( YRP) is trying to get drivers to put down their phone — and not just when they see a cop car rolling past.
The “We’re On Board, Are You?” campaign places police officers on York Regional Transit buses, where drivers can’t easily see them. Five buses have the face of Sergeant Aaron Sidenberg of the YRP Traffic Unit plastered across the side of the bus, warning drivers that they may be caught distracted driving. Drivers can be caught texting, calling, holding a cellphone up to their faces. As long as they are seen with a phone in hand, they can be charged.
“Everyone is so attached to their cellphones, but we have to focus on what’s at hand,” said Sgt. Sidenberg. “It’s now becoming one of the leading causes of motor vehicle collisions.” The other causes of collisions include speeding and impairment.
For the We’re On Board campaign, a few times a week, an officer will get on a bus and ride around looking for distracted drivers. When a driver is caught texting or calling, the officer radios a nearby officer in an unmarked car and gives the officer details, including the plate number, a description of the driver, type of phone and which hand the phone is in. Currently the fine for distracted driving is $490 and three demerit points, with a 30-day suspension for G2 and novice drivers It is one of the heaviest traffic fines for tickets.
Over 2016, YRP laid over 4,500 distracted driving charges, and between January and April 2017, when it launched the campaign, that number was 1,041.
Sgt. Sidenberg has been seeing a subtle decline, but he believes that with more education and eventually stronger deterrents to distracted driving there will be a dramatic shift in the long term.
“The best example to use is seatbelt compliance,” he said. “Seatbelt compliance is close to 93 per cent now. But it [distracted driving compliance] is not going to happen in the next five years.”