SGI reports a new Saskatchewan distracted driving record

(Herald file photo)

Media Relations Manager Tyler McMurchy is hopeful steeper fines will lead to change

Police gave out a record-breaking number of distracting driving tickets in the month of October.

SGI said police reported a total of 1,292 tickets during its Traffic Safety Spotlight—1,148 were for illegally using a cellphone while driving. The previous Traffic Safety Spotlight record for the most distracted driving tickets in a single month was 1,039.

SGI released the numbers on Monday, less than a week after the provincial government announced steeper fines for distracting driving starting in February 2020.

The first offence will soon cost you $580 and four demerits. The second offence within a year results in a $1,400 ticket, an additional four demerits and an immediate seven-day vehicle seizure. A third offence within a year of the first conviction is a $2,100 ticket, four more demerits and another seven-day impoundment.

“I’m hopeful with that awareness, with the tougher penalties, that we’re going to start to see these ticket numbers decline,” said SGI Media Relations Manager Tyler McMurchy.

“It’s not just about people getting tickets—it causes collisions, which in some cases, people (are) hurt or killed.”

In 2018, distracted driving resulted in 22 deaths and 774 injuries.

“It’s not just you who you are putting at risk,” he said.

“I think it’ll help break people, some people, of their (cellphone) addiction.”

SGI has released a video with Cst. Mike “Hawkeye” Seel of the Regina Police Service on its Facebook page to answer commonly asked questions about what actions will result in a distracted driving ticket.

McMurchy said SGI was noticing a lot of confusion on social media.

He said the laws for cellphone use haven’t changed since Jan. 1, 2017. As long as you keep your eyes on the road, McMurchy explained, you can have your phone mounted on the dash for a GPS or use voice commandments to make a text or phone call, but you can’t have your phone in your hand.

He added police aren’t looking for more ways to hand out tickets.

“If a police officer sees somebody eating a bowl of cereal or reading a book or swerving around because they’re looking in the back seat and not focusing on the road, those are the kind of activities that trigger a ticket. It’s not about having a sip of water or carrying on a conversation with your passenger while keeping your eyes on the road,” he explained.

Other results from October’s Traffic Safety Spotlight include 324 impaired driving offences with 283 Criminal Code charges, 6,583 aggressive driving or speeding offences and 387 offences related to improper seatbelt or child restraint use.