Toronto and York Region drivers better be on their best behaviour for the next six weeks as both municipal police services are kicking off a distracted driving blitz. Starting in the morning on Tuesday July 29th, they will be on the lookout for drivers talking on cell phones, texting, etc. If you have a phone in your hand, you are breaking the law and blitzes such as this one are designed to remind people of that. We’ve previously mentioned in earlier posts, both of the most recent statistics on distracted driving as well as the fine increase that saw the fines rocket from $125 to $280 that took place earlier in the year indicate that distracted driving is and will continue to be a high priority for police.
Breaking Bad Habits
Drivers who are dialling or texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who are giving their ‘full’ attention to the road. We’ve all heard the staggering statistics and yet they appear to have had little effect. What it comes down to is breaking these bad habits that we have formed. In our fast-paced multi-tasking world that we live in, it is ever so tempting to answer that text, listen to your voicemail, return important phone calls, remind someone that they need to pick up the milk on their way home or even start planning your Saturday night all while driving or waiting at numerous red lights.
The car quickly became a highly effective place to do all of those tasks that you didn’t have time for while in the office or while en route from one location to another. With all of the technology either embedded into cars these days or even the simple Bluetooth earpiece, it really is just a case of us falling further and further into the bad habit of using our phones while driving as if we were sitting at our desks or on our couch.
What to Expect
Due to the nature of catching drivers in the act of distracted driving it would often mean that police are themselves focusing on things other than driving their own vehicles; so they have come up with some inventive ways of finding those who are breaking the law. One of the most controversial ways that they have previously been catching distracted drivers is by dressing in plain clothes and standing in areas frequented by roadside pan-handlers. As the light turns red, it seems as if people think that there is a green light on texting while operating a vehicle and police are banking on this habit. As drivers reach for their phones and begin texting away, many have been surprised by a tap on the window and a police badge staring back at them.
Sneaky, yes. Illegal, no. Necessary, probably. Most drivers will automatically improve their driving when they see a marked police vehicle or a uniformed officer (Don’t deny it). So, in order to make these blitzes as effective as possible, finding ways to be around and yet mildly invisible when people are most likely using their phones has meant some duplicitous police work designed to catch those who are driving while distracted and to protect those who don’t.
For the six week blitz, expect multiple standing officers at major intersections in the city of Toronto and York Region. If you are going to keep driving while distracted, there’s a good chance that you should expect a tap on your window.
What do you think?
Do these awareness blitzes have any effect on people distracted driving habits?
Are you critical of other drivers when you see them on their phone?
What do you think would be the most effective thing that would truly make a dent in the prevalence of distracted driving and use of cell phones?