Cops at risk when you’re a distracted driver

Don’t expect a “break” when you get pulled over for distracted driving — cops are worried about public safety, as well as their own.

“You’re probably going to get run over or into an accident in your career before you’re going to get into a shootout, or into a dangerous situation where somebody’s pointing a gun at you or whatever,” said Ottawa police Sgt. Mark Gatien from the traffic escort unit.

Gatien said even he has had close calls.

“I have come across people that have wandered in my lane when I’m on my police motorcycle and I’m able to hit the siren very quickly, and it’s much louder than a horn and it gets their attention,” he said.

“They’re looking down at something and you can’t see what it is … you can speculate what it is but you can’t tell — maybe they dropped a cigarette butt.”

Smoke or not, “you can’t look down for more than half a second or so without something happening in front of you, so it is scary,” he said.

OPP have counted 31 distracted driving related fatalities this year, said Sgt. Kristine Rae, and 19 impaired related deaths.

There were 86 distracted driving deaths and 65 impaired fatalities last year, meaning distracted driving is killing more people than alcohol along Ontario’s roads.

Bill 173 was introduced at Queen’s Park last March — asking for higher fines — to help reduce collisions, injuries and fatalities on roads and highways, said transportation ministry spokesman Bob Nichols.

Last month’s election, though, was called on May 2, killing all proposed bills.

“Transportation Minister (Steven) Del Duca has stated that he hopes to see similar legislation introduced soon, but does not have a timeline and looks forward to discussing a timeline with the Government House Leader,” said Nichols.

In the meantime, Gatien said his team knows to issue tickets and not warnings for distracted offences.

Motorists generally think it’s OK to type or swipe at red lights and stop signs, said Smiths Falls police Const. David Murphy.

“They’re not looking down at their toes to see how many toes they have,” Murphy said.

“If you are in a driving lane, you are breaking the law.”

Blitzes using decoys, such as construction workers, have successfully nailed drivers using devices.

More stings are on deck, however, Ottawa police spokesman Const. Chuck Benoit said their next undercover project can’t be divulged.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @kellyroche6

http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/07/29/cops-at-risk-when-youre-a-distracted-driver

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