Nearly 40 percent of drivers surveyed by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) admit to using a handheld device while driving, though 92 percent think it’s likely that this behaviour causes accidents.
Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act was amended in July 2010 to prohibit drivers from
using any hand-operated electronic device (including cellphones) while driving. Drivers caught doing so by police will receive a ticket of $199.80. Manitoba law does allow for the use of hand-free devices. Still, as MPI’s recent survey found out, the threat of a fine is not stopping many drivers.
“Many people reported using their cellphone at least once in the last 10 times they drove,” said Ted Hlynsky, Vice-President, Claims Control & Safety Operations, Manitoba Public Insurance. “They explained the purpose of their call was either work or speaking with a family member. A total of eight in 10 respondents acknowledged using a hand held cell phone is a serious problem.”
“Research clearly states that using hand operated electronic devices and driving don’t mix,” said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill, who noted nearly 5,000 Provincial Offence notices for illegally using a handheld electronic device while driving have been issued by his officers since July 15, 2010.
“Like drinking and driving, speeding and not wearing your seatbelt, the illegal use of hand operated electronic devices while driving is dangerous, not socially acceptable or acceptable on any level,” said McCaskill.
To help reduce distracted-driving collisions, MPI is providing $120,000 in funding to police agencies – specifically Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP and Brandon Police Service – to conduct “targeted, dedicated enforcement towards distracted drivers” throughout February.
“Manitoba Public Insurance’s objective is to help raise awareness that if drivers choose to drive while using a handheld device, there are consequences,” said Hlynsky. “There’s a human and economic cost associated with distracted driving crashes. A person’s life can dramatically change forever due to driving while distracted. The Corporation also pays out millions of dollars in benefits as the direct result crashes caused by a distracted driver.”
A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a collision than a non-texting driver, Hlynsky added.