Darouze files police statement, requests fine for distracted driving
Osgoode councillor caught texting behind the wheel during livestream of committee meeting
Accepting "full responsibility" for texting while driving during a livestream of a city committee meeting Tuesday, Osgoode Coun. George Darouze says he has offered a statement to Ottawa police so that he can be issued a $615 fine under the Highway Traffic Act.
"Yesterday, I made a poor decision to get behind the wheel of my car during Audit Committee. Instead of keeping my eyes on the road, I engaged in texting while driving. I realize these actions were in poor judgement (sic), and I'm disappointed in myself for this behaviour. I know some of you are upset with me and I am truly sorry," Darouze said in a letter issued Wednesday and addressed to his constituents, family and council colleagues.
Darouze, who is also deputy mayor, said he went to the Leitrim police station Wednesday morning, where he "voluntarily gave them a statement" admitting to his actions.
Section 78 of the Highway Traffic Act states: "No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver."
Darouze appeared to have two screens on while he drove Tuesday, the cell phone in his hand and another device on the passenger seat, which he appeared to be using to monitor the virtual committee meeting.
Upon first conviction, the penalty for distracted driving is $615 if settled out of court, plus three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.
On Wednesday, an Ottawa Police Service (OPS) spokesperson confirmed the charge and the fine, but didn't say whether Darouze had been given demerit points or a suspension.
"I promise that this will never happen again," Darouze's letter concludes. "I want to continue to be an advocate for Safer Roads Ottawa and work with OPS on their Leave the Phone Alone Initiative, and by requesting and paying this fine, I hope I and others can learn from my experience."
On Twitter, Mayor Jim Watson wrote: "I appreciate that [Darouze] acknowledged his error and voluntarily reported to the Ottawa Police Service to pay the fine for his actions."
The incident attracted widespread condemnation online, with some residents calling for Darouze to be charged.
Initially, Darouze tweeted that he had "inadvertently" texted while driving. He replaced that explanation with another brief statement Tuesday, before issuing Wednesday's letter.