Nearly 900 distracted driving tickets handed out in Saskatchewan in October

(File photo/Daily Herald)

SGI reported nearly 900 distracted driver tickets handed out in the month of October during the organization’s monthly traffic spotlight.

Driving with a cell phone accounted for 756 of the province’s 896 October distracted driving tickets.

SGI Manager of Media Relations Tyler McMurchy said this was part of their monthly spotlights where they partner with law enforcement to bring attention to safe driving through social media.

“There a little bit of extra attention paid by law enforcement when it comes to that particular issue and so for the focus on October for the distracted driving focus you are going to see police run likely some enforcement initiatives specifically for distracted drivers,” McMurchy said.

“They didn’t have too much of a hard time finding them when you see that there were nearly 900 drivers taken in the month of October in the province of Saskatchewan,” he added.

Their release took on the theme of the day with a “Black Friday” theme and how a $580 ticket can ruin your plans for holiday shopping. McMurchy said they wanted to find a fun way to remind people to pay attention behind the wheel. The consequences of failing to do so, he added, are no joke.

“We have talked about the cost of it, but I think what we really need to focus on also is the human cost,” McMurchy said.

“The human cost of distracted driving is no joke. It is responsible for one out of every five collision related injuries that we see in this province and more than one out of every four deaths in Saskatchewan. That is real people getting hurt and real people getting killed. It’s a real problem, and we want to see those numbers go down. Awareness and enforcement is one way we are going to do that but really it ultimately comes down to people making those good decisions when they are behind the wheel.”

The cell phone distracted driving law has been on the books since 2010, but in 2017, the law was clarified to make the criteria clearer for police and drivers. Drivers are now prohibited from holding, viewing, using, or manipulating a cell phone while driving.

The penalties also increased in February of 2020 because it was so pervasive and police were having trouble catching offenders.

“Now a first offence will cost you $580 and that goes for both the cell phone law and the other distracted driving law which is driving without due care and attention,” McMurchy said.

Repeat offences get even more expensive; $1,400 for the second offence and $2,100 for the third and each subsequent ticket and include seven-day vehicle impoundments.
Even more important than the ticket you might get for driving distracted is the crash you might cause.

“(It comes down to) understanding that that phone call can wait that text can wait, they can wait until they check out that latest video on Tik Tok or they can wait until they are safely pulled over and out of the driving lane before they go online and start looking for those great Black Friday deals on the shopping website of their choice,” McMurchy said.

McMurchy said that the campaigns have helped make people more aware and able to make educated choice behind the wheel.

“Most people are aware at this point that they shouldn’t be holding their cell phone in their hand and they wouldn’t do it if they knew a police officer was watching,” he said. “But the thing is, if you are focusing on your cell phone when you are driving you are not giving that act of driving the attention it deserves, and you are less likely to notice if a police officer is noticing you.”

He explained that the SGI has heard stories from police officers about being in clearly marked vehicles beside drivers engrossed in cell phones who don’t notice they have an officer beside them.

“They might be in an unmarked truck beside you looking for cell phone users while they are driving, and it’s not hard to find,” McMurchy said.

“When you’re driving, please leave the phone alone and give the road your full and undivided attention.  Pull over to the side of the road if you need to answer a text or find a great online deal on a Nintendo Switch.”

Police also reported the following totals for October: 400 impaired driving offences (including 299 Criminal Code charges), 5,721 speeding and aggressive driving tickets and 311 tickets for seatbelt and car seat offences.

SGI has teamed up with Saskatchewan law enforcement and the Saskatchewan Safety Council in November to focus the Traffic Safety Spotlight on intersection safety and winter driving. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for tips and advice on how to drive safely now that the snow has arrived.