The better way to target texting drivers: York Region police ride the bus

A number of police forces in Canada are experimenting with public transit to catch distracted drivers.

Public transit provides 'a very good vantage point' to spot drivers hiding cellphones

Sgt. Aaron Sidenberg of York Regional Police rides the bus to spot texting drivers. The fine for distracted driving in Ontario is $490. (CBC)

A growing number of Canadian police forces are riding public transit to catch distracted drivers.

"Being on the bus, you have the large windows and being up higher we have a very good vantage point of the drivers and their vehicles," said Sgt. Aaron Sidenberg of York Regional Police.

"They're not suspecting that police are on the bus."

Sidenberg says people are in the habit of hiding their phones on their laps, so police have had to adapt in targeting the problem.

About a month ago, police in Aurora, Ont. began boarding the bus, watching passing drivers and informing patrollers which vehicles to pull over.

Some days, Sidenberg says, they discover so many scofflaws that they can't ticket them all.
A York Regional Police officer tickets a driver for using a cellphone. (CBC)

Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Quebec City are among the Canadian cities where officers use this technique.

Experts say distracted driving, which includes using a cellphone or GPS device, eating or smoking, can be just as dangerous as impaired driving.

The provincial government says the number of deaths caused by distracted driving in Ontario has doubled since 2000.

They also say that data collected in 2013 shows that one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every 30 minutes.

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Public transit provides 'a very good vantage point' to spot drivers hiding cellphones 2:08

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says there's been an increase in distracted driving collisions and claims across the country.

Drivers 'not paying attention'

"They're a result of people not paying attention," says Steve Kee, a spokesperson for the bureau.

The bureau has launched social media campaigns warning people against the dangers of distracted driving, but Kee worries that Canadians aren't listening because many new drivers grew up with cellphones in their hands.

"I think it's a culture of people being obsessed or addicted to their phones. I don't know anything that is that important that it can't wait."

In Ontario, the fine for distracted driving is $490. In other provinces the penalty is a fine of more than $600 and some demerit points on a driver's licence.

With files from Havard Gould