Red light texting still a problem in Canada, says CAA

Canadians continue to text at red lights, despite thinking it is unacceptable, according to a recent poll conducted by CAA.

Wider restrictions on cellphone use for Saskatchewan drivers coming Jan. 1

Justin Labrash doesn't condone texting and driving, and said there is always a place to pull over if you need to use your phone. (Kirk Fraser/ CBC)

Canadians are still texting while behind the wheel, despite increased financial penalties and the threat of demerit points, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Automobile Association. 

Justin Labrash is a young driver, who has had his license for about two years now. For him, the risks of texting and driving aren't worth it. 

"I think it's really stupid. There's just no point in doing it," Labrash said, adding there are plenty of places to pull over.

Nearly one-third of Canadians who took the CAA poll said they had texted while stopped at a red light in the last month. 

Jeff Walker, the vice-president of public affairs at the CAA, says the numbers are troubling. He said the effect of texting at a red light lingers well after the light turns green, making it a dangerous driving habit.

'I don't want to be the victim who's in the back seat.' -Justin Labrash

It's harder for Labrash to determine where to draw the line when it comes to cellphone use at red lights.

"In cities, I don't really think it's a good idea. Smaller towns, when it's not busy — it still shouldn't be done, but it's a little bit less dangerous."

However, he said strict laws are in place for a reason. Labrash said that if his friends attempt to text and drive while he is in the car, he doesn't let it happen. 

"I don't want to be the victim who's in the back seat when somebody's being dumb." 

Canadians continue to text and drive at red lights, according to a recent poll conducted by CAA. (Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press)

The CAA survey showed that close to 70 per cent of Canadians believe using their phone at a red light is unacceptable. CAA polled 2,012 Canadians for its survey.

The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Saskatchewan residents to see greater restrictions 

Saskatchewan's current law only penalizes people who use their phones when driving, but that's changing come the new year. 

In 2017, Saskatchewan residents could be penalized for viewing, manipulating and even holding their phones while behind the wheel.

Regina resident Jodi Nicholson-Hachey welcomed the added restrictions, and said she thinks cellphone use in the car is more common than people would like to admit. 

"If we are distracted for a second really bad things can happen, and I'm guilty, as are many people." 

Jodi Nicholson-Hachey thinks people need to put cellphones away and focus on the road when driving. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

She noted that phones are like an appendage for some people, but drivers should leave them alone while in the car. Nicholson-Hachey's concern extends beyond herself. 

"I have a young driver who's just about to start driver training, and I think it's really important for them to not be on that phone." 

The provincial legislation was passed earlier in the fall, and the changes will be implemented in addition to a number of SGI fee increases in the new year. 

The new Saskatchewan laws come into effect Jan. 1 at 12:01 a.m. CST.

Quebec asks Ottawa to consider criminalization

Quebec asked the federal government in August to examine the possibility of criminalizing the use of cellphones while driving.

Transport Minister Laurent Lessard wanted his federal counterpart Marc Garneau to look into the matter. He made the comments after Quebec coroner's report that recommended the Criminal Code be amended. 

Joanne Ghiz, a spokeswoman for the federal justice department, told CBC in August that law enforcement already has tools to deal with those who use a cellphone while driving.

with files from The Canadian Press and CBC News


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