Montreal

Quebec coroner recommends banning cellphones in cars

Coroner says current legislation regulating cellphone use in cars is not effective and a total ban or a scrambling device in cars should be considered.

Coroner says talking on a cellphone while driving no different from drinking and driving

Coroner Renée Rousel's report says a ban or scrambling technology should be imposed on cellphone use in cars.

A new Quebec coroner's report says cellphone use in cars is no different from drinking and driving and stronger deterrent measures are needed, including a possible ban.

Last November a driver hit 75-year-old Florilda Castonguay from behind and the coroner's report on the death suggests the driver was on his cellphone at the time.

The accident happened in Kamouraska, a town about 175 kilometres north east of Quebec City.

Renée Rousel's report says information provided by the driver's wireless provider indicates his phone was active when he hit Castonguay, a charge the driver has denied.

In her comments, Rousel says current legislation regulating cellphone use in cars is not effective and a total ban, or technology like a scrambling device in cars should be considered.

"Given that the worst a driver found guilty faces is a fine and a few demerit points, I'm thinking technological solutions are preferable to driver education for dealing with the danger this ultimately represents," she writes.

Such measures are necessary as long as "mentalities and legislation" fail to treat cellphone use in cars with the same degree of severity as driving while impaired, she said.

"And that's far from the case right now," Rousel writes.

'I actually do it sometimes too and it's bad'

Drivers in Quebec can be given four demerit points if police catch them with a phone in their hand while behind the wheel of a vehicle. Fines for using a cellphone while driving amount to $115 for a first infraction in Quebec.

Some Montrealers say Rousel's recommendation to block cellphone signals in cars could be a good way to curb potentially deadly habits.

"At a time of Pokémon Go and all these kinds of apps where people are using their cellphones for gaming in their cars, you have to start to think about things to solve that issue," Alex Corbasson said.

Montreal police say in 2015 they issued 16,775 tickets for using cellphones behind the wheel. The tickets went to people who had a phone, or a device that functions like a phone, in their hand while driving. 

Other drivers say they aren't in favour of new measures to crack down on using cellphones behind the wheel, but admit it's a problem.

"I guess we're grownups but we're actually children with toys when we're driving," Cathy Baptista said. 

"I admit, I used to make fun of people but I actually do it sometimes too and it's bad."

With files from Kristin Falcao

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