Distracted drivers bedevil Civic Weekend stats

Despite the lowest Civic Holiday weekend fatality rate in two decades, the OPP laid more than 6,500 charges to Ontario drivers, 233 of which were for distracted driving.

Risk Management News


Despite the lowest Civic Holiday weekend fatality rate in two decades, the OPP laid more than 6,500 charges to Ontario drivers, 233 of which were for distracted driving.

The newest charge on the books – that of distracted driving – has some wondering if there should also be demerit points associated with such behavior, like that in other provinces.

“Demerits for using cell phones? For sure,” says Natalie Semehen, a broker with All Risks Insurance Brokers in Toronto, Ont. “I see it more and more, and it does cause a lot of accidents.”

Semehen argues that demerit points are handed out for other traffic infractions that many consider minor.

“They give demerits for rolling through stop signs,” she told InsuranceBusiness.ca. “Just look at the woman who died trying to get on that TTC bus – I believe the other driver was on their cell phone.”

The family of the woman who was struck and killed by a cube van in Toronto recently, have publicly called for the courts and police to take “severe action against all distracted drivers, whether they are caught texting, drinking, speeding or simply failing to pay attention to what is happening on the road.”

"Distracted driving accounted for over 3 per cent of the overall charges that were laid on the weekend and for me it’s the first time I have heard of a blitz of any kind targeting distracted drivers (especially cell phone users) since the cell phone fines came into play," says Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario CEO Randy Carroll. "With the technology that exist today we should be looking at ways to better manage the offenders; fines are one way, demerit points would add to the pain when you get caught but we should be looking at other ways as well."

Carroll points out that distracted driving involving cell phones are a serious problem - one that needs to be addressed.

"According to the National Safety Council, almost 1.6 million car crashes each year involve cell phones so we need to take this as serious as we do other offences and we are nowhere close to where we need to be." 

Despite Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reporting the lowest Civic Holiday long weekend fatality rate in two decades, the OPP laid over 6,500 charges to Ontario drivers. The report includes 6,052 charges for speeding, 83 street racing charges, 96 charges for driving while impaired and 233 distracted driving charges.

One Ontario man, Rick Levesque, has started a Facebook campaign urging the province to pass a bill that will apply demerit points to drivers who are caught using their cellphones while driving.

He was spurred to action when he recently saw a young woman in an SUV crash into the back of a car stopped at a red light. Levesque says he girl had been texting at the time.

“This type of thing happens all the time and it needs to stop,” he told the Toronto Sun.

Currently seven other provinces apply demerit points along with ticketing drivers who are using hand-held devices, but not Ontario. However, if a driver is charged with careless driving, they receive six demerit points.

Steve Kee of the Insurance Bureau of Canada says that studies have shown 75 to 85 per cent of motor vehicle accidents are a result of some sort of distraction, and that includes texting. 

“I think people are more aware today of the dangers of texting while behind the wheel,” says Kee. “But while we have seen changes in drivers’ behaviours, it hasn’t been eliminated.”

Behaviour like talking on the cell phone while driving can be seen every day, says Semehen.

“I probably saw three people on their cell phones on the way to work this morning,” she says. “I mean, I have a Bluetooth – but I find just answering it can be distracting. I sometimes don’t answer the phone while I’m in the car if I’m near my destination. I wait, and call them back after I’m parked.”

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