Manitoba

MPI and police team up to target distracted drivers

Police in Manitoba are getting increased funding to crack down on drivers who insist on using their phones while driving.

MPI, Manitoba police team up to target distracted drivers

Police in Manitoba are getting increased funding to crack down on drivers who insist on using their phones while driving. 1:30

Police in Manitoba are getting increased funding to crack down on drivers who insist on using their phones while driving. 

This is the fourth time Manitoba Public Insurance has funded overtime hours for front-line officers. The initiative allows police to commit to busting distracted drivers. Often in the past, officers would be doing other work while looking for traffic violations.

That means more dollars will be added to ticket drivers, and there will be more dedicated law enforcement projects. The initiative begins immediately. 

MPI will be funding RCMP and police services in Winnipeg, Brandon, Winkler, Morden, Rivers, Altona and Dakota Ojibway.

Constable Chris Wingfield has been with the Winnipeg Police Service's central traffic division for the past five years. 

He says in that time he has seen six or seven tragedies that were the result of distracted drivers.

"That's the unfortunate reality of driving when using a cell phone," he said. 

Wingfield says officers are out everyday looking for all kinds of offences, but in the next while they will be focused on looking for distracted drivers. 

"We are going to be using all kinds of different techniques to find you. We are not going to get into those techniques but we're out there so we'll be watching," he said. 

Wingfield says people being on their phones while driving is rampant in the city—something officers see while driving in their personal vehicles. 

"If we catch you we are going to fine you, of course that means more demerits, of course that means higher insurance premiums if you choose not to obey the law," he said. 

Previous initiatives from MPI resulted in more than 5,000 provincial offence notices directly related to people talking on their phones or texting while driving. 

Ward Keith from MPI says based on those numbers, the need to continue to focus on distracted driving is a priority. 

"We will continue to partner with our police partners to raise awareness through increasing levels of deterrence, and trying to get the message out that not only is it a dangerous behaviour, not only has it now become the leading contributor to collisions and fatalities and serious injuries in this province, but it's also an activity that is completely preventable,completely avoidable," Keith said. 

Justice Minister James Allum says he hopes the enforcement project will send a message that high-risk driving will not be tolerated. 

"The Manitoba government will continue to focus on education and enforcement efforts designed to make our roads safer," Allum said in an emailed statement. 

Drivers caught using a hand-operated electronic devices will receive a $200 ticket, and move down two levels on their Driver Safety Rating.

On average, one in four road deaths in Manitoba are attributed to distracted driving.

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