Toronto Star

Drivers need to hang ’em up

- Doug Sullivan

We’ve seen the public service announceme­nts. We’ve seen images of grieving families in the media. We know how dangerous and lethal this driving offence can be.

So, why are so many motorists still risking their lives and the lives of fellow motorists by talking and texting while driving?

According to Kerry Schmidt, a sergeant with the Highway Safety Division of the Ontario Provincial Police, 16,000 tickets have been issued for distracted driving offences this year, and year-over-year statistics for distracted driving offences have remained almost the same.

Despite the dire warnings by police forces, government agencies, advocacy groups and the media, and despite the increased set fine of $490 and three demerit points upon conviction, motorists continue to display a wilful disregard for the law by refusing to ignore their mobile devices while in the car. (The fine range by a justice of the peace can range from $300 to $1,000.)

What is it going to take to get people to put away their mobile devices, or at least to use a hands-free device? When I spoke to Schmidt last week, he says it’s going to take a major shift in social attitudes before any meaningful change occurs.

Schmidt says the problem is our infatuatio­n with mobile technologi­es and the incessant need to stay connected all the time. Our mobile devices have become powerful mini-computers and we have convinced ourselves that we need to be immersed in data 24/7/365.

Schmidt believes that continued education and vigilance on behalf of all stakeholde­rs will be important to addressing this problem over the long haul.

But there also needs to be a change in public attitudes about this type of driving offence. Twenty-five years ago, drinking and driving was a common driving offence and penalties and consequenc­es at that time were fairly mild.

Over the years, however, penalties for drinking and driving increased, media messages were heard and public attitudes changed. The public now regards drinking and driving as unacceptab­le behaviour and the social stigma attached to this offence serves as an important deterrent.

That same type of social disapprova­l needs to be applied to distracted driving, and I’m convinced it will happen.

To reduce the level of distracted driving, each driver needs to make a conscious choice to put their mobile devices away, or use a hands-free device, while driving. As the holiday season approaches, please review your own driving habits and resolve to become a better, albeit safer, driver.

It could be turning off your phone while you’re in the car. It could be learning how to operate your onboard navigation system more efficientl­y so that it doesn’t interfere with your driving.

If you witness an accident that you suspect was the result of distracted driving, make yourself available to the police. The informatio­n you provide could assist police in their investigat­ion.

Your personal pledge to become part of the solution won’t stop police forces and advocacy groups from delivering their messages about the dangers of distracted driving. But you would be doing your part to make our roads safer.

Once again, the TADA is proud to support Prostate Cancer Canada. This year, our associatio­n has donated a custom 2016 Audi S5 (valued at more than $119,443) for the Rock the Road Raffle.

For ticket informatio­n, visit rocktheroa­

For informatio­n about where the auto industry is going — or if you’re looking for new career opportunit­ies — visit carsandjob­ This column represents the views of TADA. Email or go to Doug Sullivan is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Associatio­n. He is a new-car dealer in Huntsville, Ont.

 ?? TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO ?? Despite the warnings, motorists continue to ignore distracted driving laws.
TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO Despite the warnings, motorists continue to ignore distracted driving laws.
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