Why this Winnipeg officer has made it his personal mission to tackle distracted driving
1 in 3 deaths and 1 in 5 serious injuries on roads involve a distracted driver, police say
For Sgt. Rob Duttchen, a 17-year member of the Winnipeg Police Service, ending distracted driving is personal.
In 2009, his father was killed in Arizona by a driver who was texting. Duttchen said a 16-year-old girl was on her phone when her vehicle crossed the median and hit his father, who was out walking his dog.
"We believe that the dependence on our smartphones has gotten to a point where we don't give it a second thought," said Duttchen. "You have to remove your hand from the wheel to do your text. You have to remove your eyes from your environment to look at your phone."
Sgt. Duttchen recently hit the streets to assist with enforcement and education. In some cases, he gave offenders a choice to get a ticket or listen to his personal story.
There is no call or text that can't wait, Duttchen said.
"How would you like to be distracted driving to be the cause on a certificate of death?" he said. "It's just not worth it."
Duttchen's approach is just one of several proactive and creative methods Winnipeg police are using to crack down on distracted drivers this summer.
Police launch campaign to nab distracted drivers
The service is launching a month-long campaign this Canada Day long weekend to target drivers using cellphones behind the wheel.
"People are certainly being more covert about the methods that they are using to operate a cellphone while they are operating a motor vehicle," Staff Sgt. Sean Pollock said Thursday. "That's where it has become more important for us to use the creative strategies to basically put police officers, to be quite blunt, where you wouldn't expect us to be."
In the month of April alone, police ticketed 480 people for distracted driving, Pollock said. The number of deaths and serious injuries involving distracted drivers is now on par with those caused by impaired drivers, he added.
In Manitoba, one in three deaths and one in five serious injuries on roads involve a distracted driver, police said.