Police watching for distracted drivers

Arthur White-Crummey

SGI is reminding Saskatchewan drivers to put their phone away while they’re driving.

Police are cracking down on distracted driving in October as a part of the traffic safety spotlight. Throughout the province, police will be using a variety of tactics to catch distracted driving, including surveillance from unmarked vehicles and plainclothes officers on the sidewalks. Regina police will have 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 the web while driving.

But SGI is warning drivers that distracted driving isn’t limited to cellphone use.

“Drivers are still not getting the message,” said superintendent Brian Shalovelo of the Saskatoon Police in a news release. “If you are in control of a vehicle anything that takes your attention away from the road is dangerous. 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.”

Distracted driving was a factor in 8,300 collisions last year. In Saskatchewan, it is illegal for drivers to use, view, hold or manipulate a cellphone while driving. If you’re holding a cellphone and not using it, you can still be charged.

Experienced drivers can use a cellphone if it is mounted to their visor or dash, and they use voice-activated or one-touch functions. Learner and novice drivers are not allowed to us a cellphone of any kind, not even hands-free.

The penalty for distracted driving is a $280 fine and four demerit points. Drivers caught using their cellphone while driving for a second time within one year will have their vehicle seized for seven days.

“The average car or lightweight truck weighs over four thousand pounds,” said Chief Evan Bray, Regina Police Service in a news release.

“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?”

SGI also provided a list of tips to drive free of distractions:

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.

The traffic safety focus for August was 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 and 459 tickets for distracted driving, including 342 for cellphone use.