Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cellphone distracted victim: Cops

Attempting to cross a busy downtown street while talking on a cellphone proved to be a deadly combination for a 28-year-old woman.
Toronto Police say the woman was standing on the northwest corner of Front St. and Blue Jays Way just before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, waiting to cross to the south side of the street, when a southbound delivery truck pulled up to the intersection and turned right in front of her as the light changed.
"The victim was on a cellphone at the time and she literally walked into the side of the truck as it was making its turn," Sgt. Tim Burrows said yesterday. "She was knocked down and the rear wheels of the truck drove over top of her."
The woman, whose name has not been released, died at the scene becoming the city's ninth traffic fatality of the year.
Police are still investigating and no charges have been laid. But the death has renewed concerns over pedestrian use of cellphones and other devices.
"We harp on motorists not to drive distracted, but pedestrians need to know as well that these distractions can have extreme consequences," Burrows said.
"Whether you are talking on your cell, texting while you're walking, or wearing earbuds listening to music, you turn off so much of your sensory perception and your focus is not on safety," he explained.
It's believed the woman killed out front of the Rogers Centre was holding her cellphone to her ear, which Burrows said reduces your ability to move your head to look around.
Burrows suggested pedestrians who walk and talk, or text, should put their phone call on hold or wait until the conversation is over to cross the street. And those listening to music should remove at least one earphone.
"There is no phone call, text message or music that is worth losing your life over," he said.
So, is it time for the province to outlaw such behaviour?
"I think society is in a sad state if it needs to pass a law to protect people from this," Burrows said, adding a little common sense should be all that's needed.
However, after standing at the intersection for a couple of hours yesterday and seeing pedestrian after pedestrian with a cellphone pressed to their ear, Burrows said such legislation may not be as silly as it sounds.
Vincent Tsang, who lives nearby, admitted he has occasionally been on the phone while crossing the street.
"But an incident like this will make me think twice before I do it again," he said.
Tsang, 38, doesn't believe legislation is the answer.
"Laws and legislation can only go so far," he said. "How can you really police and enforce something like that?"
Another area resident, Sean Wells, who is also admittedly guilty of walking and talking at times, agreed.
"I don't think you can dictate any new laws or regulations for it," the 34-year-old said, adding it comes down to personal responsibility.

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