Ever since the law was created in Ontario that made it an offence for drivers of motor vehicles to use a hand held electronic device, phone or view a screen not associated to the navigation of the motor vehicle, the Toronto Police have reminded people regularly to avoid using any device that may cause a distraction.
On a daily basis we hear about people driving and talking o the phone. The Toronto Police have been very aggressive in both the messaging of the dangers of this action and in charging people who we see doing it. (To date in 2011 we have charged 13,802 people under the distracted driving legislation…All of 2010 = 15,371)
For over a year, the Toronto Police have offered the community a way to report drivers they see endangering the public by their actions or behaviours in non-emergency situations. There are two online forms that can be easily filled out and sent to the police.
One details neighbourhood complaints where the community would like specific actions taken to deal with a problem. For example:
- Speeding in a school zone;
- Failing to stop at a stop sign;
- Not yielding to pedestrians in a crossover;
Can all be addressed by the division for the concerned area.
The second form allows for the reporting a driver / vehicle in specific circumstances. Examples of those offences may include:
- Driver on the phone;
- Vehicles weaving in and out of traffic;
When we receive these reports, we review the nature of the complaint, notify a specific unit for action of the report and take the appropriate action. (Investigation, observation, education, enforcement.)
Often times the registered owner of the vehicle will be sent a letter describing the incident and asked to ensure anyone driving their vehicle adhere to all applicable laws according to the Highway Traffic Act, Municipal By-Laws or other statutes that may be referenced.
It is rare that we will lay charges under reported circumstances for various reasons, one of which is we often can’t identify the driver or people don’t wish to attend court as witnesses or the actions themselves don’t warrant the resources required to open a full investigation when a letter can serve the purpose of educating and raising the awareness to possible offenders that their actions are seen by other than the police.
When circumstances include collisions, criminality or extreme situations of unsafe driving, resources would be dedicated to the investigation and pursuit of the appropriate charges.
The underlying message of all this is simple. The device that is used is not the issue. Whether it is talking on the phone, holding a music or entertainment device or watching a movie on a tablet, it’s the distraction that is the concerning issue.
Driving is filled with potential distractions, some we control easily (like not bringing a phone into the car) and ones that aren’t so controllable (visual issues like billboards).
The key for drivers is to remember that the priority when driving a motor vehicle is safety on the roads and the consideration of other road users.
Great drivers just drive, safely.