In today’s issue The Telegram has run a story based on observations at a busy intersection in St. John’s yesterday. In a 90-minute span, a photographer photographed 29 people using cell phones while driving. Many others looked at their cell phones while stopped at a red light.
The vehicles concerned included taxis, dump trucks and school buses!
Distracted driving is not a mild misconduct, but the fine for getting caught using a handheld device is about $100 and four demerit points. This deterrent is inadequate to the scope of the risk created. The Telegram story quotes the Canadian Automobile Association, which states that distracted driving is a more significant cause of accidents and fatalities than driving under the influence of alcohol.
Ramping up penalties may be part of the public policy response to the widespread problem of distracted driving, but this is only one element in the larger challenge of educating the public on the hazards that the use of electronic devices creates on our roads. At Ches Crosbie Barristers, we see many examples of the dramatic fallout of distracted driving, in human injury and property damage.
The whole problem of distracted driving should be set in a wider context. The level of traffic in and around the St. John’s area has become ferocious, particularly over the last five years. The province should set up a task force to originate policy solutions for the traffic problem and its associated safety issues. The traffic problem will only get worse.