Texting while driving

You are not allowed to touch your phone while behind the wheel, say Toronto police. (CBC)

Toronto police are again asking motorists to choose either driving or texting, but not both at the same time.

Before getting behind the wheel, put the phone down, police advise. Officers will be out making sure drivers heed that or else. This week, they kicked off an enforcement campaign called That Text or Call Could End It All.

It comes after updates to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act last fall which see distracted drivers facing fines of
$490 to $1,000 plus three demerit points.

"Even touching the phone once, or picking it up once, is the offence," said Const. Clint Stibbe.

During their commute, motorists are compelled to pick up their phone because using it has "become a part of their being." He said he sees people in cars begin to fidget — what he calls "dancing hands" — and then pick up the phone out of habit. This can lead to a collision.

"It's a misconception that it's not a big deal," said Stibbe. "[You] don't associate loss of life with using a cellphone. But in reality it does happen."

Stibbe said though this latest crackdown on phone use while driving is valuable, the changes have to come from the community.

Stibbe likens it to drunk driving. Driving while under the influence first became socially unacceptable during 1920s, but there are still 1,400 incidents a year in Ontario, Stibbe said. So though almost 100 years of advocacy haven't stopped impaired driving, he argued that it has saved lives.

"This should be behaviour we can change, but the problem is we need the public to want to change. I think that is our biggest challenge right now," he said.

One easy fix: put your phone in the glove box while your driving. It removes the temptation. Stibbe said his daughter, who just began driving, uses this technique and it works.

We'd like to hear from you. Do you ever use your phone and drive? When and why? Or perhaps you're a pedestrian or driver who's seen some sketchy behaviour from others behind the wheel. Call our Vox Box at 416.205.5807. Or tweet us @metromorning.