PEI

P.E.I. constable combats distracted driving with 'text' drive event

A Kensington, P.E.I., police constable is tackling distracted driving head on — with a distracted driving "text" drive this Saturday.

'You can text and yes, you can drive but you can’t do the two of them together'

Kensington Cst. Robb Hartlen said he sees motorists texting and driving on a daily basis. 'You basically can’t turn around right now without hearing of distracted driving.' (Submitted by Robb Hartlen)

A Kensington, P.E.I., police constable is tackling distracted driving head on — with a distracted driving "text" drive this Saturday.

Young drivers will be given the chance to ride a go-kart around an obstacle course, first without a cell phone and then again while texting and driving at the same time.

The goal is to show how dangerous it can be and hopefully, save a life.

Cst. Robb Hartlen was looking for a unconventional way to convey the danger of texting and driving and took inspiration from shows like Canada's Worst Driver.

"It's a hands-on way for young drivers to see and safely experience the dangers of it," he said.

'You can't do the two of them together'

The challenge takes on personal meaning for Hartlen, whose friend was put in a wheelchair for life after being hit by a driver who was on their phone.

"As a police officer, I see the end result of what happens when you're texting and driving. Something as innocent as, 'Well I just want to check this' and next thing you know your life is completely, completely changed," he said.

With Saturday's event, he's hoping to target those still in the graduated license system but said distracted driving is something everyone has done — he sees it everyday.

The number of convictions in P.E.I. for distracted driving appears to be doing down, but RCMP said that doesn't mean people are putting down their phones. (B.C. Government)

"You can text and yes, you can drive but you can't do the two of them together," he told CBC News.

"The human mind, it makes no difference if you're 17 or 117. The human physiology is not made up to concentrate on more than one thing at a time."

In 2015, there were 327 distracted driving convictions on the Island, but so far in 2016, there are only 147. Some police officers believe it is getting harder to catch because motorists are hiding their phones.

By putting on a fun event, Hartlen is hoping to break down what he calls the "stigma of the uniform." If it's a success, he wants to run it on a larger scale.

The first Text Drive — a play on test drive — will run the morning of Nov. 5, at the Kensington Intermediate Senior High.

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