Montreal

Amend Criminal Code to curb cell phone use while driving, coroner says

The federal government should amend the Criminal Code to introduce tougher penalties to discourage people from using their mobile phones while driving, a Quebec coroner says.

Quebec report into death of 28-year-old trucker urges Ottawa to take action

Reports suggest distracted driving from cell phone use remains a major cause of road fatalities. (CBC)

The federal government should amend the Criminal Code to introduce tougher penalties to discourage people from using their mobile phones while driving, a Quebec coroner says.

Michel Ferland wants a traffic fatality or injury caused by driving while using a phone to be considered a crime, much like driving while drunk. Cell phone use while driving is currently only considered a violation of the Highway Safety Code. 

Ferland made the recommendation in his report on the death of Jimmy Brunet-Rotondo, a 28-year-old truck driver, who was killed earlier this year in an accident on Highway 13 in Laval.

Brunet-Rotondo didn't react fast enough to a sudden slowdown in a traffic caused by a broken-down vehicle, the coroner's report said. His cab was crushed by the truck ahead of him. 

Brunet-Rotondo was pronounced dead at the hospital, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriendMarie-Chantale Daigle.

A common distraction

The coroner believes Brunet-Rotondo was distracted at the time of the crash.

There were no tire marks on the road and a witness said Brunet-Rotondo didn't brake until moments before impact, which "strongly suggests he didn't have his eyes on the road and was distracted by other things," the report said. 

Jimmy Rotondo was driving on Highway 13 when he was killed in a two-truck collision, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend. (GoFundMe)

Phone records indicate Brunet-Rotondo posted on Facebook five minutes before the collision. His cell phone was found on the floor of the passenger side of the truck.

According to a recent U.S. study, cell phones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. 

Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, or near-crash event, compared with non-distracted drivers.

'I think it could make a difference'

In his report, Ferland said he wants police to have more power to seize information from the driver's phone to prove their suspicions in court.

He also wants the province to devote more police resources to cracking down on the problem.

In an interview, Daigle said she agreed with the coroner's recommendation that penalties should be stiffer for driving while distracted. 

"I think it could make a difference," she said.

with files from Lauren McCallum

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