Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ON THE ROAD, OFF THE PHONE

Texting while driving has become an epidemic in our city.

The popularity of mobile devices has dangerous consequences . We now know that mobile communications are linked to a significant increase in distracted driving, resulting in injuries and the loss of life. 

Distracted driving endangers life and property and the current levels of injury and loss are unacceptable. I am no texting saint. It is hard to ignore the beeping of a text message or a Tweet. I want to be engaged in the conversation. Driving is such a distraction! I have gotten into the habit of tucking my phone into my work bag and tucking it behind my seat so that I cannot access it while driving. If it is important, they can call me. That is hands free (although still a distraction).

According to the CAA folks engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers. 5 seconds is the minimal amount of attention that a driver who texts takes away from the road. If traveling at 55 mph, this equals driving the length of a football field without looking at the road. Texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary  has been actively  reminding motorists of the dangers of texting and driving.  Texting is the number one distraction for drivers

Last week they handed out dozens of tickets to drivers that were caught texting while behind the wheel. The crackdown did not appear to have the impact that the police hoped for. Yesterday on the ride home from work I counted 36 people texting away. 36! I was not looking for them, but as they passed me or slowed down at intersections,  it was hard to miss them.

In instances like this  informing and educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving is not enough. Government needs to hit them where it hurts - than they will listen. 

We need much harsher fines for texting while driving - for that matter for putting on make-up or letting your dog go mad on your lap. It is a shame that governments have to resort to legislation to enforce common sense rules to protect people. Currently, drivers caught using a hand-held phone or text messaging on nay device face a maximum fine of $400 and impose a four merit upon a conviction.

Ontario brought in a bill last Fall to assist people break the habit of texting or talking on a hand-held phone while behind the wheel. The maximum fine for distracted driving to $1,000 and impose three demerit upon a conviction.

Next time you are driving and you hear that familiar ping, fight the urge and enjoying being unplugged for a while. Set rules for yourself and your household regarding distracted driving.


On the road, off the phone.

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