Province considering tougher distracted driving rules

MLA Joe Hargrave at a previous event. (Herald file photo)

Bailey Sutherland, Daily Herald

The number of distracted drivers has gone up in May and the province is looking at implementing harsher punishments.

The dramatic rise in numbers, with 1042 distracted driving fines issued in May, are due to an increase in police enforcement. The recent change in legislation has allowed police to lay more charges, resulting in more distracted driving fines recorded.

Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, says they are looking at several options to lower the number of distracted drivers. “There are lots of things we can do on fines, drivers license suspensions, taking people’s cars away for a period of time. We have to bring that number down, by having strong enforcement and by people just not using their phones or being distracted”.

Many new vehicles have hands-free phone options; an option that Hargrave says can save lives. “I think that surely when we’re driving we can be away from the phone. We definitely don’t have to be texting and driving. Distracted driving is definitely a no-no”.

Several places in the province have launched the ride-share service Uber in 2019. Hargrave is optimistic that it will help prevent impaired driving, but believes it is still too early to tell and is waiting an appropriate period of time until the numbers reflect that.

SGI has also recently implemented the Traffic Safety Fund, which is helping communities all across the province to acquire equipment to aid with safety. A total of $500,000 was made available. A total of 27 communities have acessed the fund.

Photo radar cameras are being considered in some high-traffic areas as well, however Minister Hargrave has said he doesn’t want to see them on every corner or every highway.

SGI has released some tips to help drivers stay focused on driving and reduce the number of distracted drivers:

  • Put your phone someplace you will not be tempted to check it, such as a bag or glove compartment.
  • Plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need before you start driving, so as not to tempt yourself with reaching in the backseat.
  • Select music and program your GPS before you start driving
  • Get ready before you leave for your destination or wait until you arrive to fix your hair and makeup

*This is a corrected story. The original story misstated the amount made available through the Traffic Safety Fund. Another sentence was rephrased to make it clear that while photo radar is being considered, it is only in select areas.