Windsor

Watch a movie, put on makeup: What not to do behind the wheel

From drinking and driving to answering a phone call while on the road, the Ontario Provincial Police record a host of dangerous behaviour on a regular basis. 

The OPP has launched a distracted driving awareness campaign for March Break

Vancouver police stopped this driver with a tablet and a cellphone attached to the steering wheel of the car. (Vancouver Police Service)

From drinking and driving to answering a phone call while on the road, the Ontario Provincial Police record a host of dangerous behaviour on a regular basis. 

The OPP launched a provincial awareness campaign around distracted driving for March Break, a time when more kids are likely to be out at unexpected times of the day.

Const. Jim Root said it's not unusual to see someone watching a movie while driving down Hwy. 401.

"It's crazy, but we see many things of this nature," said Root. He's been on the job for 28 years and has seen things like applying makeup or refereeing a back seat fight between children. 

"Any driver who is not completely in control of their vehicle may be found guilty," said Root, but he adds that deaths on Ontario roads have dropped by three per cent from 2017 to 2018. 

New legislation, penalties

New laws for distracted driving in Ontario were introduced Jan. 1, with stronger punishments for offenders. 

According to Root, this new legislation and better education campaigns have contributed to less deaths on the road. 

"People are becoming more and more attentive behind the wheel," said Root. "But it's not enough. We're going in the right direction but we must redouble our actions."

The OPP has frequently used Twitter and live Periscope videos as a tool to promote awareness campaigns. Const. Adam Crewdson from Elgin County took to Twitter to mark the beginning of this week's campaign. 

"We need to find solutions as a society," said Crewdson. "We have to make sure we're on the same page to deal with distracted driving."

Maps on phones, morning coffee

According to Crewdson, drivers can use their phones as GPS devices, provided it isn't touched while the vehicle is in motion — but if the device is attached to the window and obstructs the driver's vision, there may be a fine. 

OPP Const. Adam Crewdson uses Twitter to promote awareness campaigns and safe driving practices. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

"The only reason you can touch your phone while driving is to call 911," said Crewdson. 

For other things that might be considered distracting, like drinking your morning coffee on the way to work, Crewdson said you can avoid a misdemeanour fine if your vehicle remains at normal speed without moving side-to-side. 

Complaints can also be lodged against OPP officers if civilians think the officer is driving distracted.

This story was adapted from a Radio-Canada story by Florianne Bonneville.

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