Police target distracted drivers in Manitoba

Police forces in Manitoba are getting extra funding to crack down on distracted driving in February.

Police forces in Manitoba are getting extra funding to crack down on distracted driving in February.

Manitoba Public Insurance is giving $120,000 to police in Winnipeg and Brandon as well as the RCMP for extra, targeted enforcement on drivers who use handheld cellphones and text.

Poll highlights

  • A total of 800 Manitobans participated in the poll.
  • Younger adults are the least likely to rate this as a very serious problem compared to older adults.
  • 40 per cent admitted using cell phones without a hands-free device.

When asked to name a single greatest driving problem in Manitoba:

  • 26 per cent cited speeding/ driving too fast for conditions.
  • 23 per cent cited cell phone use while driving.
  • 21 per cent cited drinking and driving.
  • 17 per cent cited drivers not paying attention.

Margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

A recent survey conducted by MPI revealed Manitoba drivers are not putting down their handheld cell phones.

The government insurance agency polled 800 people between November and December 2011 on the phone. Of those, 40 per cent admitted to illegal cell phone use while driving.

Winnipeg police say distracted driving was likely to blame in at least two fatal crashes in 2011.

"There’s a human and economic cost associated with distracted driving crashes," said Ted Hlynsky, vice president of claims control and safety operations for MPI. "A person’s life can dramatically change forever due to driving while distracted.

"Many people reported using their cellphone at least once in the last 10 times they drove," Hlynsky added.

"They explained the purpose of their call was either work or speaking with a family member. A total of eight in 10 respondents acknowledged using a hand held cell phone is a serious problem."

It's the law

The Manitoba Highway Traffic Act was amended in July 2010 to prohibit drivers from using any hand-operated electronic device while driving. Drivers caught doing so by police will receive a ticket of $199.80.

Manitoba law does allow for the use of hand-free devices.

Nearly 5,000 notices for illegally using a handheld electronic device while driving have been issued by Winnipeg police since July 15, 2010, according to police chief Keith McCaskill.

"Like drinking and driving, the illegal use of hand operated electronic devices while driving is dangerous, nor acceptable on any level," he added.

"For safety sake, drivers should let their calls go to voice mail, and when it comes to texting and driving – it can wait," added Hlynsky.