Winnipeg police shift focus from speeding to distracted driving
Changes will mean better surveillance at night, says police chief
Winnipeg police officers are spending less time on the lookout for speeders and more time looking for impaired and distracted drivers, the chief of Winnipeg police says.
At the last police board meeting before the civic election, Chief Danny Smyth said Winnipeg police have expanded the number of shifts in the traffic safety unit from two per day to four to expand its surveillance of the bad behaviours at night.
"When you look at what's causing injury and deaths in collisions, it's distracted driving and it's impaired driving," Smyth said after the board meeting Friday.
Earlier this year, Winnipeg police began to rely more on photo radar to catch drivers speeding and running red lights so they could free up officers to look for more elusive behaviours — like checking texts while rolling through residential neighbourhoods.
"I'd like to deploy our people to be more focused on impaired driving and distracted driving. You can't do that in an automated way, you need people to do that," Smyth said.
Officers will continue to use a myriad of means to catch distracted drivers, including: peeking over drivers's shoulders from bus windows, swerving through downtown on bicycles and standing on traffic medians.
According to Manitoba Public Insurance texting makes drivers six times more likely to get into a crash. Using your hand to dial a phone doubles that risk. Some form of distraction is reported in more than two-thirds of all collisions.
In 2017, Manitoba saw 15,000 collisions related to distracted driving and two-thirds of those crashes were in Winnipeg, MPI said.
In Manitoba, the penalty for driving while distracted is a $200 fine and moving five levels down on the driver safety rating scale. Under a law introduced earlier this year, very soon drivers could lose their licence for three days if caught.
Manitobans caught driving with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 face an immediate three-day licence suspension, possible criminal charges and a minimum $1,000 fine, if convicted under the new legislation.
Along with adding more shifts at the traffic unit, police are also upgrading its photo radar equipment to models which are easier to move. That will help the service expand surveillance on newer roadways, like sections of Kenaston Boulevard and Chief Peguis Trail.