Sudbury

Caught texting behind the wheel in 2019? Expect to lose your licence for a few days

Constable Andrew Hinds is parked in an unmarked vehicle at the corner of a busy intersection in New Sudbury.

Sudbury officer nabs 10 distracted drivers in about 3 hours

A Sudbury police officer scans a busy intersection for signs of drivers who are texting while behind the wheel. (Kate Rutherford CBC)

Constable Andrew Hinds is parked in an unmarked vehicle at the corner of a busy intersection in New Sudbury.

He's in the middle of a traffic enforcement blitz to catch distracted drivers.

"The person we may ticket today might prevent them from driving on their cell phone tomorrow and potentially hurting themselves or killing another motorist," he says.

Hinds watches a driver stopped at a red light.

"So you see this truck right here?" Hinds says. "She's digging through her purse. She could just be looking for papers but that's one of those clues that I'm looking for, digging for her phone to come out."

And then the phone does come out.

Hinds jumps out of his truck, walks up to the vehicle and taps on the driver's window while she's in mid-conversation, motor still running, then waves her into a nearby parking lot to give her bad news.

She was just one of more than ten drivers Hinds caught in a three-hour blitz at the intersection.

When he returns to his cruiser, Hinds says the driver didn't see him coming.

"I knocked on the window to catch her attention," Hinds says. "When I walked up to the driver's door, the cell phone was still on call mode."

"I was able to observe the screen illuminated, and I could hear the other person on the other side speaking. So I caught her mid-conversation."

"When a fully uniformed officer is able to walk up to her vehicle and knock on the window before she even realized I was there, that just goes to show you the extent of the distraction these cell phones create."

That driver got away with a hefty ticket, but as of January 1, drivers caught on their cell phones for the first time face a three-day license suspension, three demerit points and  fines of up to $1,000.

The fines get stiffer for successive convictions.

Sergeant Tim Burtt of the Greater Sudbury Police Services says he has seen all kinds of distracted driving while on patrol. (Kate Rutherford CBC)

We've seen it all, sergeant says

Sergeant Tim Burtt of Greater Sudbury Police Services says the problem has grown with the distractions of technology.

"Collisions are up," Burtt says. "In fact, they're saying right now between twenty and twenty-six percent of collisions have distracted driving involved. That's a terrifying statistic in itself."

"I've seen everything from reading a newspaper to putting on makeup to drinking, to eating, reading their cellphones, texting, talking," Burtt says. "You name it, we've seen it all."

He says while past increases in the fines haven't reduced the problem, he thinks actually suspending driving privileges may be enough to make people put down the phone behind the wheel.

Burtt expects it will take approximately six months to see whether the increased penalties have changed people's behaviour.

With files from Kate Rutherford

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