Kingston Police have conducted a Distracted Driving enforcement blitz, which saw more than 10 drivers stopped for a variety of offences.
“Distracted driving continues to be a significant concern that negatively affects the safety of everyone on our roadways. Statistics provided by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation have shown a trend where distracted driving has now become more deadly than impaired driving,” said Sergeant Steve Koopman of the Kingston Police Traffic Safety Unit.
“While distracted driving laws have existed in Ontario since 2009, with penalties and consequences increasing over time, many motorists are still dependent on, or even addicted to, their cell phones. These drivers are not taking simple measures to ensure compliance, such as using a mount with Bluetooth hands-free technology, turning off notifications when in motion to reduce distractions, or even just proactively putting the phone away and out of reach.”
The one-day blitz took place on Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2023, and resulted in the following offences:
- Seven offences of distracted driving due to cell phone use.
- One offence of careless driving due to eating a meal with both hands, including the use of a fork.
- One stunt driving offence where the driver was observed on radar travelling 104 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone (locked on display at 101 km/hr as seen in the below image).
- One offence of failing to stop for a red light.
- Two speeding offences.
Using an unmarked vehicle that provides a high, clear view of other motorists’ activities, a police spotter recorded and notified nearby traffic officers of the offending vehicle and driver descriptors, plus their actions, according to a release from Kingston Police. The motorist would then be stopped and charged accordingly.
“Kingston Police, the O.P.P., Transportation Ontario, KFL&A Public Health, and many other organizations have been educating the public for years on the dangers and penalties of distracted driving, yet many motorists choose to ignore the messaging and seem shocked on the ramifications when stopped at the roadside,” Koopman continued. “For a first offence, this now includes a $615 to $1,000 fine, three demerit points added to their driving record, and an automatic three-day licence suspension upon conviction regardless of their prior driving history. This doesn’t include the likelihood of insurance ramifications. Second and third convictions see an increase in fines, demerit points, and length of licence suspensions. Novice drivers (G1, G2, M1 and M2) also need to take note that a first conviction for distracted driving is an automatic 30-day licence suspension.”
According to Koopman, many drivers caught using a cell phone still think holding the device but using the speakerphone function is acceptable. “It’s called ‘hands-free’ for a reason,” he stated.
Additionally, a frequent number of motorists are seen using their devices when stationary at a red light or in slower stop-and-go traffic, according to police.
“One motorcyclist was even seen at a red light reaching into a closed compartment, taking out their phone, removing one glove, and beginning to type. These situations are not exemptions, still distract the driver, and police will proceed with charges regardless,” Koopman explained.
“As well, holding a device to get mapping directions is also not acceptable. Set your destination or music playlist prior to putting the vehicle in motion and entering onto a public roadway. If making changes, this has to be done hands-free, have a passenger make any alterations, or pull off the roadway and come to a full and complete stop.”
Police noted that another common misconception is that drivers are fine to eat, drink, personally groom, or have a pet in their lap. According to the release, if there is a marked departure of providing due care and attention to, or without reasonable consideration for, other persons using the highway, then a charge of careless driving ($490 fine and six demerit points) can apply. Regarding a pet in a motorist’s lap, there is a secondary charge of crowding the driver, which carries a $110 fine and three demerit points.
“Distracted driving is one category of what is commonly known in traffic safety circles as The Fatal Four,” Koopman said. “The other three are impaired driving, speeding/aggressive driving, and improper seatbelt use. These driving behaviours are most often observed in serious and fatal collisions. We will continue to have these enforcement blitzes, using tactics and techniques to keep offending motorists guessing where police may next be located.”
A 2022 CAA report and Distracted Driving Statistics reveal some eye-opening information, including that one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half-hour in Ontario, and that distracted drivers are four times more likely to get into an accident when talking on a phone while driving, police concluded.