OPP launches March Break road safety campaign to target distracted drivers

Ontario Provincial Police have launched a traffic safety campaign to remind drivers to put down their phones and pay attention to the road over March Break.

'Distracted driving is a danger to all road users,' OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli says

OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli speaks to reporters in Toronto after he announces that the provincial police force has launched a March Break traffic safety campaign. (CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police have launched a traffic safety campaign to remind drivers to put down their phones and pay attention to the road over March Break.

OPP officers in a number of patrol vehicles will target distracted drivers this week, OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli said on Monday. The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities resulting from inattentive motorists, he said.

Distracted drivers are those who are engaged in any activity that is taking their focus away from driving, he said. That includes talking on cell phones, texting, reading and eating.

"Distracted driving is a danger to all road users," Cristilli told reporters at the Toronto OPP Detachment.

"We want to see everyone develop and maintain a complete intolerance for distracted driving and to make it socially unacceptable driving behaviour." 
'You can seriously injure or kill yourself or someone else for simply not paying attention,' says OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli.

Drivers often underestimate the risks of inattention and overestimate their skills behind the wheel, he added.

Cristilli said the OPP has determined that the distracted driver is the "deadliest" kind of driver on roads it patrols in Ontario and has been so for the past five years.

83 deaths linked to driver inattention last year

In 2017, the OPP investigated 83 motor vehicle deaths in which driver inattention was an underlying factor. In comparison, there were 75 road deaths related to speed, 49 road deaths related to lack of seat belt use, and 46 road deaths related to alcohol and drugs.

Since 2009, when provincial distracted driving laws took effect, a total of 692 people have died from driver inattention, he said.

The OPP investigated 8,711 crashes last year linked to distracted driving, according OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, provincial commander of traffic safety and operational support.      

Cristilli said the campaign, intended to heighten awareness of the risks of distracted driving while attempting to change driver behaviour, will take the form of public education, engagement and enforcement. 
OPP officers in a number of patrol vehicles will target distracted drivers this week. The vehicles will include a transport truck that will monitor commercial traffic. (CBC)

"You can seriously injure or kill yourself or someone else for simply not paying attention. Ontario has some of the safest roads in North America. But road safety requires an ongoing commitment to education and public safety initiatives like this one," he said.

The OPP wants to "drive home the message" that 100 per cent of crashes involving driver inattention are preventable, he said.

Cristilli said the patrol vehicles include the OPP's transport truck, which will be used to monitor commercial vehicles and gives officers a "height advantage" while on the highway.

'Actions can have tragic consequences'

If convicted of distracted driving, the OPP said in the release that a fully licensed driver will receive:

  • a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490, if settled out of court.
  • a fine of up to $1,000 if a driver receives a summons or fights the ticket.
  • three demerit points applied to a driver's record.

Drivers who endanger others because of a distraction, including hand-held and hands-free devices, may still be charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act or dangerous driving under the Criminal Code. Both charges can result in fines and penalties.

"The OPP wants to remind all drivers that their actions can have tragic consequences on other motorists with whom they share the road," the OPP said in the release.

According to Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, the first distracted driving ticket of the day in the Greater Toronto Area went to a driver of a double tanker fuel truck for allegedly "fiddling" on his cell phone while on Highway 400 north of Highway 401.