Distracted driving spikes in Saskatchewan

Police caught more that 400 Saskatchewan motorists talking on their phones, eating or applying makeup while driving last month.

Cellphones, food and makeup divert attention from road

The number of distracted drivers caught during the annual September blitz has increased sharply this year, says SGI. (B.C. Government)

More than 400 Saskatchewan drivers were busted in September for talking on their cellphones, eating or putting on makeup while behind the wheel.

The 414 distracted driving tickets handed out by police is a jump of more than 30 per cent over the same time last year, when just 285 tickets were issued, according to Saskatchewan Government Insurance.

"Absolutely, it's the number one leading factor of overall collisions, and the top three in fatalities," Kelley Brinkworth of SGI said. The other major causes are speeding and impaired driving, she said.

Cell phone use biggest factor

Cell use is now responsible for the bulk of these infractions. There were 294 people caught on their phones last month compared with just 124 in September 2015, according to SGI.

Brinkworth said the Crown corporation has tried to educate the public through events, campaigns and social media. Each September, there is an enforcement blitz. However, the main goal is to teach motorists how to drive safely.

Safe driving message not getting through

Despite these efforts, hundreds continue to flout these and other driving laws. Comparing September of this year and last, numbers are also up for speeding in school zones. There were 678 caught this year compared with 640 last year.

"Make sure you know what the school speed zones are in your community," Brinkworth said.

In Regina, the limit of 40 kilometres per hour is enforced year-round, while Saskatoon's limit is 30 kilometres per hour and is in effect only during the school year, she noted.