Manitoba

Police suspend more than 400 drivers in April for texting while driving

Winnipeg police say drivers aren’t getting the message about the dangers of texting while driving.

Increased fines, licence suspension for distracted driving took effect in November

In November, the fine for distracted driving climbed to $672. (David Horemans/CBC)

Winnipeg police say drivers aren't getting the message about the dangers of texting and driving.

More than 400 drivers had their licences suspended for the offence in April.

The number of people caught texting while driving is down by about 14 per cent from April of last year, but not as much as police would like to see, says Winnipeg police Insp. Gord Spado.

"It's actually really surprising to me that the numbers are still where they are," he said. "As far as reactions, it's varied. Some people here understand they know exactly what's coming, and then other people yell and scream and say it's unfair."For a few months each year, Winnipeg police step up their enforcement of distracted driving laws.

People have been living with cellphones and relying on them for so many years it's a matter of really getting through that this is no longer acceptable in a car.- Winnipeg police Insp. Gord Spado

This was the first time police have undertaken enhanced enforcement since the province began imposing new penalties for distracted driving, including tripling the fine for carrying a handheld electronic device and introducing the three-day suspension. Offenders are subject to an additional seven-day ban if they break the law again within a 10-year period.

Spado expects the number of drivers caught texting while driving will decrease with time.

"I very much compare this to when seatbelt legislation came in," he said. "People have been living with cellphones and relying on them for so many years it's a matter of really getting through that this is no longer acceptable in a car."

When police take a driver's licence, they give them a temporary licence that is valid until midnight the following day, when the suspension comes into effect. The suspension lasts for three days. The drivers also receive a $672 fine.

Police released the new suspension numbers ahead of Road Safety Week, which runs from May 14 to 20.

On Thursday, Manitoba Public Insurance released new figures showing that nearly half of all road fatalities this year were pedestrians.

Last year, 30 people lost their lives and 184 people were seriously hurt in collisions blamed on drivers who weren't alert.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson

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