Picking up your phone while driving to let your friend know you’re running late? That’s a bad call. It’s illegal, dangerous and may cost you – there might be a police officer watching from a bus or an unmarked vehicle in the next lane, and the fines and penalties are stiff.
Distracted driving is the focus of October’s Traffic Safety Spotlight. Throughout the month, police across the province will be using a variety of tactics to catch distracted drivers in the act, including surveillance from unmarked vehicles and plainclothes officers on the sidewalks. Regina Police Service is running “Operation Bus Cop,” with eagle-eye officers watching for distracted drivers from city buses.
Police will be on the lookout for people using handheld cellphones to talk, text, email or browse online while driving. But distracted driving isn’t just limited to using a phone.
“Drivers are still not getting the message. If you are in control of a vehicle, anything that takes your attention away from the road is dangerous,” said Superintendent Brian Shalovelo, Saskatoon Police Service. “If someone says they were picking up a CD on the floor when they lost control, that is distracted driving. Changing the radio station, smoking a cigarette, reading a map or your mail – these are all examples of how a driver can be distracted. We’ve even seen people watching Netflix while driving.”
“The average car or lightweight truck weighs over four thousand pounds,” said Chief Evan Bray, Regina Police Service. “That is two tons of comfort and convenience to get you to your destination…or it’s two tons of steel and glass that can take your life, or someone else’s, if you lose control. Is there any text message, photo or music selection in the world that could be more important than a human life?”
“The message is simple: put the phone away and encourage your friends and family to do the same,” said Earl Cameron, Executive Vice President of the Auto Fund. “Put it out of reach in your glove box, zip it up in your purse and put it in the back seat, or mount it on your dashboard and use it hands-free if you’re an experienced driver. We all have a responsibility to make safe choices behind the wheel.”
It is illegal for drivers in Saskatchewan to use, view, hold or manipulate a cellphone while driving. This means that, even if you’re simply holding a cellphone and not using it, you can still be charged. Drivers caught using their cellphone while driving for the second time within one year will have the vehicle they are driving seized for seven days. Experienced drivers can only use a cellphone if it is mounted to their visor or dash, and they use the voice-activated or one-touch functions. Learner and novice drivers are not allowed to use a cellphone of any kind, not even hands-free.
The penalty for distracted driving is a $280 fine and four demerit points under SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program.
Everyone can drive free of distractions by following these tips:
- Don’t use your cellphone, even at a red light – the law applies whenever you’re in control of a vehicle.
- Put the phone away – silence your phone and put it out of reach before getting behind the wheel.
- Focus on driving – limit distractions like eating, grooming, or having emotional conversations with passengers.
- Have a designated texter – let your passenger reply to messages and operate the radio and GPS.
- Pull over first – if you need to make a call or take care of children or pets, don’t do it while driving.
- Call out friends and family – if you see them using a cellphone behind the wheel, speak up! It may save their life.
August Traffic Safety Spotlight Results: Impaired driving
During the August spotlight on impaired driving police reported 390 impaired driving offences, including 334 Criminal Code charges.
Police also reported:
- 4,243 tickets for speeding or aggressive driving
- 360 tickets for inappropriate or no seatbelt/child restraint
- 459 tickets for distracted driving (including 342 for cellphone use)