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Fines for distracted driving going up

By Duane Hicks
Staff Writer

Texting, talking on your hand-held device, adjusting your iPod, or playing “Flappy Bird” while driving will net you a bigger fine starting March 18.
Ontario is boosting the fine for motorists who are caught driving while distracted from $155 to $280 (a $225 fine, plus a $50 victim surcharge and $5 court cost).
This marks the first time the fine amount has increased since the ban on hand-held devices came into effect in October, 2009.
Province-wide, including Rainy River District, the OPP has been stepping up awareness with its distracted driving campaign March 8-14.
“There will be officers out enforcing this portion of the Highway Traffic Act,” noted local OPP Cst. Anne McCoy.
The OPP is asking Ontarians to show their support during this important campaign.
They can go to the OPP’s Facebook and/or Twitter pages, and let them know how they plan on helping to eliminate distracted driving on Ontario roads.
The OPP will highlight some of the entries in a wrap-up news release following the campaign.
Cst. McCoy said distracted driving is a problem here in Rainy River District, just as it is everywhere else.
Police found a total of 18.5 percent of motor vehicle collisions in the region last year were caused by inattentive driving.
This translates into 227 accidents in Northwestern Ontario, of which 39 occurred in Rainy River District.
The OPP also has found drivers talking on the phone or texting now cause more deaths on Ontario roads than impaired drivers. A total of 78 fatal accidents in 2013 were attributed to distracted driving.
By contrast, the number of alcohol-related road fatalities was 57 while the number of speed-related fatalities was 44.
“Distracted driving refers to all forms of distracted or inattentive driving, such as adjusting a vehicle’s entertainment system or GPS unit or stereo, eating and drinking, using a hand-held device, self-grooming, or tending to children in the back seat,” noted Cst. McCoy.
“Drivers need to remember that the true danger to public safety lies in the distraction, not the device,” she stressed.
There are three main types of distraction:
•visual (taking your eyes off the road);
•manual (taking your hands of the wheel); and
•cognitive (taking your mind off what you’re doing).
All of this has been promoted in the recent safe winter driving presentations the Highway Safety and Education Committee has been doing at district schools.
Cst. McCoy noted motorists can make and take hands-free calls while driving, but cautioned they reduce a driver’s ability to concentrate and should be kept to a minimum.