Ottawa

Ottawa police climb to new heights in distracted driving blitz

Ottawa police are employing a new tactic in their fight against distracted driving: a towering Ford F-250 pickup truck from which officers can peer down into vehicles to see whether drivers are texting while driving.

5 forces combine for 1-day crackdown across Ottawa-Gatineau

Ottawa police Const. TJ Jellinek sits in an unmarked pickup truck during a distracted driving blitz on March 22, 2016. Jellinek says the pickup truck's height makes it easier for officers to spot people texting while driving. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)

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  • On Thursday Ottawa police announced 79 drivers were ticketed during the blitz.

Ottawa police are employing a new tactic in their fight against distracted driving: a towering, black Ford F-250 pickup truck from which officers can peer down into neighbouring vehicles to see whether other motorists are texting while driving.

The truck, on loan from the force's marine unit, is part of a one-day enforcement blitz in the National Capital Region. Ottawa police, Gatineau Police, OPP, RCMP and military police are taking part in the crackdown.

"The issue we run into is, drivers now try to hide the cell phone and they keep it down low, out of sight," said Const. TJ Jellinek of the Ottawa police east division traffic unit.

"With this vehicle we're using today we're sitting up very high, and when we pull up to a car we can look right down in and get a really good view of what the driver is doing."

As of August, Ontario has some of the strictest laws — and stiffest penalties — in the country when it comes to distracted driving. The minimum fine for those caught in the act and convicted is $490 and three demerit points.

"What we're seeing out there is people of all ages are texting. It's a habit that people need to break," said Sgt. Denis Hull, also with the east division traffic unit. 

Distracted drivers cause more than 40 per cent of all collisions in the city, Hull said.

In a news release, Ottawa police said the campaign was aimed at reminding drivers to "leave the phone alone" to make roads safer.

In Ontario, it's against the law to operate hand-held communication and electronic devices while driving. It's also illegal to look at display screens that are unrelated to driving.

In Ontario, examples of hand-held devices include:

  • iPods.
  • GPS and MP3 players.
  • Cellphones.
  • Smartphones.
  • Laptops.
  • DVD players.

There are a few cases where hand-held devices can be used while driving:

  • In a vehicle pulled off the roadway or lawfully parked.
  • To make a 911 call.
  • Transmitting or receiving voice communication on a two-way, CB or mobile radio.

Police, emergency medical services personnel, firefighters and enforcement officers are also permitted to use hand-held devices and viewing display screens while working.

Officers will be out throughout the day, ticketing distracted drivers.

Police said the results for the blitz would be made available later this week.

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