While impaired driving and speeding are problems, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) says inattentive driving (distracted driving) is causing more collisions on Ontarian roads than the other two combined.
In a release on Tuesday, the police service reported distracted drivers have been found as the chief cause in 6,360 collisions since Jan. 1, 2017. OPP says speed was the primary factor in 4,700 incidents and a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs contributed to 1,158 accidents.
Inattentive driving has resulted in 47 deaths to date this year, a year-on-year increase from 39 fatalities through same period in 2016.
“Our collision data is compelling evidence that drivers who text, talk on their cellphone or are distracted in some other way, take a tremendous toll on the safety of those who share the road with them,” said J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes, OPP Commissioner, in the release. “Public complacency about inattentive driving can be just as dangerous as the behaviour itself. Until drivers, passengers and the general public take a firm stand against this road safety issue, these tragedies are expected to continue in large numbers on our roads.”
The last time speeding and impaired driving deaths outpaced inattentive driving fatalities in Ontario was 2012.
OPP says drivers must not use a cellphone when they are driving and should pull over at a safe location if they need to. Passengers are urged to tell drivers if they are distracted, while the police force says schools and workplaces can do more to educate the public on distracted driving.
Current laws in Ontario for distracted driving are a $400 fine, with a victim surcharge and court fee, coming to a total of $490. If the case goes through the courts, the fine is raised to $1,000. Three demerit points are added to an offender’s license.
“You can also be charged with careless driving if you endanger others by being distracted behind the wheel, which includes using both hand-held and hands-free devices,” the information said. If convicted, a person will automatically receive: six demerit points, fines up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of six months and up to a two-year licence suspension. “You can even be charged with dangerous driving (a criminal offence), with jail terms of up to five years,” the OPP reported.