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Distracted driving deadlier than impaired: insurance bureau

MPPs, experts urge province to introduce demerit points for drivers caught using cellphones on the road

Published November 5, 2013

Motorists talking on cellphones or texting are killing more people on Ontario highways than impaired drivers, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says.

The organization’s Doug DeRabbie was speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park after MPPs of all political stripes urged the minority Liberal government and the legislature to introduce a demerit points for distracted drivers.

“We have looked at impaired driving versus distracted driving and actually there have been more fatalities recently with respect to distracted drivers as opposed to impaired driving,” DeRabbie said.

He noted that so far this year there have been some 50 fatalities in Ontario, compared to 30 caused by impaired driving.

Ontario banned the use of hand-held device four years ago when its introduced fines but no demerit points.

Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough-Rouge River) currently has a private member’s bill before the legislature calling for demerits points in addition to increased fines for motorists nabbed for talking or texting on their phones.

“Just about everybody is supportive . . . I would say there is a real groundswell of support for this particular legislation. And it is absolutely needed,” Balkinsoon told Queen’s Park news conference.

Elliott Silverstein, of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) South Central Region, said more than 80 per cent of CAA members want to see stronger penalties, including demerit point for distracted driving infractions.

Some drivers of all ages, Silverstein said, look at the fines for distracted driving as the cost of doing business. But these same drivers will think twice if it affects their insurance premiums, he said.

“The result is that people are 23 times more likely to have an accident when they are texting and driving . . . so we need to make some changes to make Ontario’s road even safer,” he told reporters, adding that these drivers can react quickly enough.

Ottawa resident Rick Levesque, who initiated a provincewide petition calling for changes to the Highway Traffic Act to incorporate demerit points, told the news conference that provinces, where such a change has been made, have seen a reduction in distracted driving.

“Somebody needs to do something,” said Levesque, who was thanked by Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) for his efforts.

Tory MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) said the average time to answer a phone call is 10.6 second and if a motorists is driving at 100 km/h that means they have covered 294 metres in that time, or three football fields.

“It is therefore no surprise that distracted driving has become the biggest road safety concern in Canada,” Yurek said.

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