Toronto Star

Police use unmarked hearse to catch distracted drivers


A hearse pulled over three drivers in Toronto on Tuesday for allegedly using a cellphone behind the wheel.

The hearse rolled through the streets at about 6 a.m. as a grim, one-day visual aid for “That Text Or Call Could End It All,” a weeklong campaign by Toronto Police to curtail drivers who illegally talk, text or type on hand-held devices.

The message: If you text and drive, this is where you could wind up.

“It’s a wake-up call for everyone,” a police spokespers­on, Clint Stibbe, said. He said people should consider the different forms of distracted driving — texting, drinking a coffee or talking on the phone — and the grave consequenc­es those actions can have.

“Surprising­ly, we didn’t see that many people using their devices. There were some but, believe me, if there was more, we would have stopped more,” Stibbe added.

Distracted driving is one of the top four causes of road fatalities in the city, along with speed, impaired driving and not wearing seatbelts.

Police issue an average of 16,000 tickets a year for distracted driving. Since 2011, Toronto police have issued more than 109,000 charges relating to the offence.

Officers keep an eye out for distracted drivers 24/7, Stibbe said. But the campaign — and the hearse — have only been around since February 2014, when the Ontario government announced it would nearly double the fines for distracted driving, to $280 from $155.

“The hearse, I think everyone can articulate what a hearse really means. I think it leaves a bit more of a lasting impression,” Stibbe said.

The hearse has been used every year since, with the exception of last year, when the weather in February was a little too cold and icy, Stibbe said.

Until Sunday, police officers in marked and undercover cars will be devoting “special attention” to distracted motorists, while urging drivers to put their phones down.

Stibbe also shared on Twitter that one of the drivers pulled over Tuesday was given a $490 ticket and had three demerit points deducted for distracted driving.

“Drivers must do better,” Stibbe said.

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