Distracted driving continues to be issue in New Brunswick

Distracted driving continues to be a problem on New Brunswick roads, but drivers are undecided on whether it should be made criminal, or if a ticket is enough. This comes after Quebec's Transport Minister said he'll ask Ottawa to look closely at the issue.

More than 1200 violations in past year, according to Justice and Public Safety

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, three out of four Canadians admit to texting and driving.

Distracted driving continues to be a concern in New Brunswick, with violations remaining steady at more than 1200 per year.

And those are the ones who are caught.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, three out of every four drivers admit to distracted driving, and chances of an accident in those cases are 23 times more likely.

New discussions around distracted driving were prompted by Quebec Transport Minister  Laurent Lessard, who announced he would call on Ottawa to study this issue to determine if it should be criminalized.

He is supported by two Quebec coroners who have been public about their belief that distracted driving, including cell phone use, is a crime.

Differing opinions

On the streets of Fredericton, there are mixed feelings about increasing the punishment from a ticket worth $172.50 and three demerit points, to a federal crime.

Jacob McCluskey doesn't see distracted driving any differently than drinking and driving.

Some people like Jacob McCluskey say criminalization makes sense.

"You get the same thing for drinking, you're just as distracted," said McCluskey, who collects traffic data for the city. "There's a lot of close calls for sure."

But Camille Lemire Ruel, whose brother lost a friend to texting and driving, said it might not deserve the same punishment.

Camille Lemire Ruel's brother lost a friend to texting and driving.

"I think there's a problem with texting and driving but I don't think it should go as far as drinking and driving," she said.

But she's still opposed to it.

"I think it's stupid ... and it's not just young people who text and drive," she said, referring to a relative she needs to remind from time to time.

Education and awareness

Tom Levesque of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said it's a growing habit that requires education and awareness, something he works with government and law enforcement to implement.

Tom Levesque of the Insurance Bureau of Canada says distracted driving is a growing concern.

"It's become second nature to us," he said, "We're seeing cell phones, smartphones, everywhere."

That's making enforcement challenging for lawmakers. 

Chantal Farrah of the RCMP wouldn't comment on the law, but said people should make safe choices, regardless of the punishment.

"We all have a part to play to keep our province safe," she said. "Driving is a privilege and not a right."

She encourages people to make paying attention to the road their only focus, when they decide to get behind the wheel.