by David Shanahan
The Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] are reporting that 2016 marked the fourth consecutive year that inattentive drivers were behind the highest number of lives lost on OPP-patrolled roads over the other main causal factors in road fatalities, known as the “Big Four”.
According to a release by the OPP: “In total, 65 people died in OPP-investigated collisions last year in which an inattentive driver was either a contributing factor or the primary cause of the death. In comparison to the other Big Four categories, 2016 ended with 55 speed-related, 53 seatbelt-related and 45 alcohol-related deaths. As officers get set to conduct their annual province-wide Distracted Driving Campaign, the OPP is looking to Ontarians to help with the educational component of the campaign – a role that remains critical to helping keep Ontario roads safe”.
OPP Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes commented on this disturbing statistic: “Road deaths linked to distracted drivers will not let up unless every road user says ‘enough is enough’ and shows a complete intolerance for what continues to be the most life-threatening driver behaviour on our roads. Starting with this campaign, we want to see every Ontarian, especially passengers of all ages, take a firm stand against those who endanger their lives by using their cell phones or engaging in other forms of distractions behind the wheel.”
His concern was echoed by the Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca: Distracted driving continues to be a very serious challenge on our roads. It is particularly frustrating to see this behaviour – which is completely avoidable – cause the kind of carnage that it does. Even one death is one too many. It’s time for all of us to put down our phones and speak up if we see our friends and family driving dangerously – together we can make this behaviour as socially unacceptable as impaired driving.”
The OPP will be conducting a Distracted Driving Campaign during the March Break, between March 13 and19, in an attempt to get the message through to drivers. The facts are depressing. With the exception of 2012, inattentive drivers have taken more lives on OPP-patrolled roads than speeding and alcohol-impaired drivers since Ontario distracted driving laws took effect in 2009. A driver convicted of distracted driving faces a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee; a fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket; and three demerit points applied to your driver’s record.
Cell phone users are a major part of the problem, in spite of legislation against using cell phones while driving. But even taking your eyes off the road to tune a car radio, or change a CD, can be a source of danger. The sight of a driver heading to Ottawa on the 416 with a newspaper propped up on his steering wheel is one that will stay with me for a long time. Last month, I watched in my rear-view mirror as a car overtaking an 18-wheeler on the 416 slowly drifted into the truck’s lane and collided with its front wheels. It spun out of control across the highway and ended up facing the wrong way in the ditch. Fortunately, the ditch was filled with snow, which cushioned the impact. A moment’s loss of focus can result in serious consequences.
Keep your eyes on the road.