Thunder Bay

Endangering 'your life or someone else's': Dryden police lay 5 distracted driving charges in 2 days

The Dryden Police Service, in a northwestern Ontario community which is home to less than 8,000 people, has laid nine distracted driving charges to people using a handheld device since new penalties for the offence came into effect on January 1, 2019.

Police in small northwestern Ontario city lay 9 charges in 6-week period since new penalties came into effect

Police in Dryden have laid 9 distracted driving charges since new penalties came into effect on January 1, 2019. The northwestern Ontario city is home to under 8,000 people. (CBC)

The Dryden Police Service has laid nine distracted driving charges against people using a handheld device since new penalties for the offence came into effect on January 1, 2019.

"I was quite surprised to see that number of charges laid in just six weeks," Insp. Ann Tkachyk told CBC News Thursday, noting that her northwestern Ontario city is home to just under 8,000 people.

She said she was also taken aback because five of the charges were laid over the two-day period of February 6 – 7, 2019.

'People have a lot to lose'

"People have a lot to lose when it comes to getting charged with distracted driving and the stakes are very high and they're actually putting their license, and their insurance in jeopardy, which could affect them for the rest of their life," she said, adding that distracted driving also endangers "your life and somebody else's life."

Tkachyk also said there is a misconception that if a driver is stopped at a red light or stop sign, it's okay to take that opportunity to phone or text.

However, using handheld devices in those situations also form the offence of distracted driving, she said.

The only acceptable occasion to use your phone is "if you are driving and have to call 911" or if you have pulled over to the side of the road and come to a complete stop, Tkachyk said.

'You are just not paying attention to the road'

Statistically distracted driving "accounts for almost, if not more, collisions than impaired driving because you are just not paying attention to the road," said Tkachyk.

Drivers caught talking, texting, dialing or emailing face fines totaling $615 or more, as well as a possible three-day licence suspension upon conviction, three demerit points, and an increase in their insurance rates.

For second convictions within five years, fines rise to $2,000 plus six demerit points and a seven-day licence suspension, and an increase in insurance rates.