Manitoba's latest crackdown on texting and driving does not go far enough, says a Selkirk man whose decision to text behind the wheel caused a crash that paralyzed him.
Manitoba Public Insurance and police forces in the province launched a campaign on Thursday that includes "elevated enforcement" and education about distracted driving.
'It takes that one second to change your life forever.' - Dustin Vernie
The campaign aims to educate drivers, especially those between the ages of 16 and 25, about the dangers of using cellphones while operating vehicles, according to officials.
But Dustin Vernie, who sustained massive injuries in a head-on collision in December 2010, says the laws must be changed to convince young people to put down their phones.
"I would like to see them make it strict right off the start — a ticket for the first offence; the second offence, you lose your licence for a period of time," he told CBC News.
Vernie was 17 years old at the time of the crash, which he said happened as he was texting while driving his vehicle on Highway 9.
The collision broke almost every bone in the teen's body. Doctors initially told him he would never walk again.
Since then, Vernie has been walking a bit with the help of a therapist, and he continues to undergo surgeries to address his injuries.
As well, he has been touring schools and talking to young people about the dangers of texting and driving, in the hopes they can learn from his mistake.
"It only takes one second," he said. "It takes that one second to change your life forever."
On Friday, Vernie is scheduled to undergo his 13th surgical procedure since the crash.
Since 2005, there have been more than 160 fatalities on Manitoba roads linked to distracted driving — an average of 25 deaths a year, with each one preventable, according to MPI.
Distracted drivers are 23 per cent more likely to be involved in an accident, the public auto insurer added.