Ontario mulls safe texting zones to combat distracted driving
Ontario is considering the idea of putting signs on highways to alert drivers about upcoming areas where they can safely pull over to text or check their emails.
All three parties voted in favour on second reading of a private member's bill from Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli to create so-called safe texting zones.
Fedeli said signs on highways would inform drivers about 185 existing areas such as commuter parking lots, transit stations and rest stops where they can safely pull off to use their smart phones or tablets.
He said he got the idea while driving through Pennsylvania and New York, and saw signs in both states promoting safe texting zones, and said it would not require any new infrastructure.
Fines are not enough, MPP says
Fedeli said increased fines are not enough to curb distracted driving habits, and said safe texting zones will save lives and help educate motorists about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.
The Ontario Provincial Police reported in March that distracted driving was the cause of more deaths on provincial highways than any other factor for the third consecutive year, contributing to 69 deaths in 2015.
Fedeli said he's had widespread support from police, insurance companies, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Ontario Safety League for his Safe Texting Zones Act.
"It sends a clear message to distracted drivers that there is no longer any excuse to endanger themselves and those they share the road with," said Fedeli. "Their text can wait until the next texting zone."
Ontario stiffened penalties for distracted driving last fall, with a set fine of $490 that a judge could increase to $1,000, plus three demerit points on conviction.
New Democrat transport critic Wayne Gates told the legislature that it's not just the younger drivers who text.
"Older people, seniors are doing it, and young people are doing it, and it's putting people at risk," said Gates.
Private member's bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Fedeli is confident his will either be passed or be adopted by the Liberal government after members from all sides of the legislature spoke in favour of it.