March is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service urges community members to please put down their mobile devices while driving. Provincial statistics show a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road.
The Ontario Provincial Police’s 2017 annual report shows 72 roadway collision deaths were directly linked to driver inattention.
Officers have noticed a significant increase in the amount of fines handed out in recent years. In 2018, 111 tickets were issued for distracted driving, 66 in March alone. From Jan. to Dec. 2017 Sault Police issued 34 distracted driving tickets.
“The statistics show distracted driving is a persistent concern on local streets,” says Traffic Sergeant Ray Magnan. “We want community members to exercise restraint by avoiding their mobile devices while driving in an effort to make travelling on roadways as safe as possible.”
It is against the law to drive while holding a handheld communication or entertainment device. This includes holding a phone in your hand and talking on speaker phone.
In order for a driver to lawfully hold a device while in a motor vehicle three conditions must be present.
- The motor vehicle must be pulled off of the roadway,
- The vehicle must not be impeding traffic, and;
- The vehicle must be lawfully parked.
It is important to remember placing a call to 911 in cases of emergency, e.g. police, fire, to report an impaired driver, is an exception to the law.
If a driver chooses to use a Bluetooth connected device, they are reminded they are only permitted to touch the screen momentarily to activate or deactivate the hands free function, and only if the device is mounted or secured.
Having a device on your lap is not considered to be a mounted or secure place. Drivers are also reminded they cannot manipulate the screen on a device to scroll through music, emails, texts or any other information that may be accessible on the device.
Upon a first conviction, a person will face a minimum fine of $615, three demerit points, and a three day license suspension; however they could face a fine of up to $1,000. On multiple convictions a driver could face a fine of up to $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day license suspension. A novice driver, (G1 or G2) will face the same fines however, they will face a 30-day license suspension for a first conviction, a 90-day suspension for a second conviction and the cancellation of their license and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third conviction.
The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service wants to provide a safe environment for everyone on the streets of Sault Ste. Marie and Prince Township. Please do your part and put down your phone while behind the wheel. Returning a text message is not worth a life.