Close

Hamilton Police Distracted Driving 1:00

It took less than a minute driving on the highway.

"COLLISION," it screamed and the seat jolted forward.

This reporter had one hand on the wheel, the other on a cell phone trying to send a tweet. Eyes off the road for less than 10 seconds and the brakes couldn't work fast enough. Straight into the white van ahead.

Fortunately, none of this was real. None of it was legal. And there were police everywhere.

Hamilton Police set up a distracted driving simulator for the public, Tuesday, to mark the end of a nine-month long blitz.

Constable Wes Wilson said, since the beginning of the campaign in February, officers issued 4,200 provincial offence notices for drivers with a cell phone or other devices like an iPod in hand.

"It's been a productive campaign, unfortunately," Wilson said. "There's probably 4200 more we could have issued. It's a really prevalent problem right now."

Wilson said, when the Ontario Distracted Driving Law took effect in October 2009, Hamilton police have seen an increase in collisions and alcohol wasn't the cause. It was driver distraction.

"The vast majority of people get impaired driving," said Steve Overend, head instructor with DriveWise, a driver training company. "It's the distractions that we're trying to get across."

Overend was manning the simulator Tuesday and said it took on average less than 40 seconds for a driver with cell phone in hand to crash behind the wheel.

"They're driving all over the road," he said. "They're missing things like doors opening, cars in front. They're not able to respond in time."

Wilson said there are still a number of misconceptions about the provincial law. The car doesn't have to be in motion and the driver just needs to be holding a phone for it to be illegal.

"If you think about it, the car is still in drive. You're driving your vehicle at a red light," he said.

Hamilton Police use unmarked vehicles that don't look like a typical police cruiser to drive around and catch distracted drivers.

"What people tend to do is take a quick scan, they don't see a police car around, then do their thing real quick and put their phone away," Wilson said. "That's where the problems happens, during that short lapse in judgment. That's when a collision happens, when you take your eyes off the road."

Wilson said Hamilton Police will continue to look for distracted drivers, even though the campaign is complete.

A ticket for distracted driving costs $155, Wilson said.