Distracted driving the big killer – beating impaired driving – say cops

Quick thumbs are being linked with more fatal crashes in Ontario than bar shots.

So far this year, 31 distracted driving related fatals have been tallied, compared to 19 impaired related deaths, according to OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae.

That is consistent with the statistics from 2013, when there were 86 distracted driving deaths, versus 65 impaired fatalities, she said.

Both types of collisions concern police since they’re often “an act of choices people (make),” said Ottawa police Const. Chuck Benoit. Education is key, he said.

That may include a verbal warning, ticket, or even a crash to get the message.

If you’re looking down in the driver’s seat next month, cops will be eyeing you in Smiths Falls during a campaign targeting distracted driving.

“It’s an issue everywhere,” said Smiths Falls police Const. David Murphy. “It’s one of these things where they raised the fines and people are still doing it.”

Murphy and Benoit agree it’s getting harder to catch texting drivers who are now holding devices in their laps — even more distracting, “because they have to look downwards to do all the typing and looking at what’s being sent in,” said Benoit.

“That’s where the danger is.”

Cops “do have to use a sneakier approach,” said Benoit.

That’s where two wheels and sweat come in.

“People don’t see police on bicycles,” said Murphy, pointing out he mostly sees young people who appear to be 18 to 25 texting away. “They’re looking for a car, or they’re not paying attention, either.”

But seeing drivers using devices isn’t enough to nab them.

“If they have green lights all the way through, you’re not going to catch them, and sometimes you don’t always have a car in the area that can stop them,” Murphy said.

“One of the guys was just saying the other day that he actually watched a (texting driver) send the message … and then rapped on the window. The guy looked like a deer in the headlights.”

Benoit said motorists texting while heading to or from work is a pattern cops have on their radar.

“During rush hour it’s terrible,” he said. “It’s non-stop.”

The current set fine — pleading guilty and paying the ticket for distracted driving — is $280 and no demerit points, transportation ministry spokesman Bob Nichols confirmed Monday.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kellyroche6

http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/07/28/distracted-driving-the-big-killer–more-than-impaired-driving-say-cops

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