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New Policing Challenge: Texting and Distracted Driving

Policing Texting and Distracted Driving

Just like in any other job, police officers must adapt to our changing times and changing laws in the performance of their daily duties. One of the hot issues that has recently come onto the radar for police departments across Canada is the problem of distracted driving, which has become an increasing threat to the safety of the roads we all share.

It seems that every year there are more cars on the road and more hazards to be aware of including: construction projects, school buses, emergency vehicles and yes, distracted drivers. The problem is compounded by a proliferation of handheld devices that we are constantly glued to. Simply put, cell phones and driving don’t mix:

Cell phones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2010) CAA

New Penalties for Distracted Driving in Ontario

Our laws are now catching up to the realities of our evolving digital times. Just last month, new rules came into effect in Ontario enacting tougher penalties for distracted driving, with particular emphasis on banning the use of handheld devices while driving:

As of September 1, 2015 the fines and penalties for distracted driving will increase.

If convicted of distracted driving, a fully licenced driver (holder of Class A, B, C, D, E, F, G) or a hybrid driver (holder of a full-class licence and a novice licence such as Class G and M1) will receive:

  • a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court
  • fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
  • three demerit points applied to your driver’s record MTO

Penalties are even greater for novice drivers, starting with a 30-day suspension for a first offence, a 90-day suspension for a second offence and complete removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third infraction.

Concerns about distracted driving have been around as long as the automobile:

History shows that distracted driving started happening long ago. General Motors web site (GM.com), says that in 1913, when mechanical wipers became standard equipment on American cars, many people criticized them, predicting that their rhythmic motion would distract drivers and lull them into an almost trance-like state. In 1930, two states unsuccessfully attempted to ban radios in cars, saying they distract drivers and disturb the peace. In 1954, when Ray Kroc bought McDonalds, he had the big idea that people would like to buy fast food at a drive through window. And obviously he was right. Since then, more and more people have been eating while they drive. Skaggmo.com

So What’s Driving a Renewed Focus on Distracted Driving & Tougher Penalties?

In the last decade, handheld devices such as the iPhone have become meshed into the fabric of our daily lives. Remember how big of a deal it was when the iPhone 3 came out in 2008, compatible with a wireless 3G connection? It was like Christmas in July. For a few hundred bucks we now had access to the internet, email and texting from just about anywhere.

Texting has a lot of advantages over phone calls and emails. In the last 7 years, the ability to send short little memos, on the fly, to our family, friends and associates has got most of us pretty much hooked to our data plans. This is pretty convenient if you’re at a coffee shop, catching a bus or train or just have a few extra minutes to kill… not so good if you’re behind the wheel of an automobile.

Texting While Driving Impacts the Driver in Several Ways:

  • Taking the eyes off the road for one or two seconds while the car is in motion reduces the driver’s ability to avoid a crash that can be avoided with full attention.
  • There is also a focus switch from close while texting, to far when looking up again. There is a recovery time during which the eyes do not focus clearly on distant objects.
  • It also increases inattention blindness, such as completely missing a swerving car or a sudden lane change. DrDriving.org

In our fast-paced busy lives, there is a great deal of pressure to be on time, multi-task and get things done on the go. The same mobile technology that allows us to share information so easily, has also increased the temptation for many us to drive and text, putting ourselves and those sharing the road in much greater danger.

The Challenge of Policing Distracted Drivers

The new distracted driving laws in Ontario are part of a growing trend across North America to dissuade motorists from texting and driving, similar to laws that emerged in the past few decades to clamp down on impaired driving. Police are doing a great job keeping up with the new laws and being on the lookout for those drivers who just don’t get it, even after they’re caught:

According to Ottawa police Sgt. Mark Gatien, one driver caught using his cellphone told police he couldn’t be fined. “Why?’ the officer asked. “Because I just got a ticket for the same thing 10 minutes ago.” Ottawa Citizen

As a police officer, you will be required to make many discretionary judgments and deal with all types of personalities in the performance of your daily duties. You will need a strong ethical foundation and be required to demonstrate various levels of leadership on a daily basis. If this prospect does not deter you, why not fill our online jobs profile so that police and security organizations will know you’re eager to apply for employment?

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