Every month, Saskatchewan police launch a different safe driving initiative as part of a “Traffic Safety Spotlight.” This could include anything from promoting seatbelt and car seat use to campaigning against drinking and driving.
For October, provincial police are cracking down on distracted drivers. According to the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), distracted driving factored into 8,300 collisions in the province last year, leading to 42 deaths and 1,205 injuries. It’s the number one contributing factor in total Saskatchewan collisions and the second overall in fatal collisions.
Throughout October, police say they’ll be using “a variety of tactics to catch distracted drivers in the act,” which includes surveillance from unmarked vehicles and casually-dressed officers on sidewalks. Additionally, Regina Police Service will be running “Operation Bus Cop,” which places officers in city buses to keep an eye on distracted drivers.
Police also want to stress that, contrary to what some may believe, distracted driving isn’t just limited to using a smartphone behind the wheel. “Drivers are still not getting the message. If you are in control of a vehicle, anything that takes your attention away from the road is dangerous,” said superintendent Brian Shalovelo of the Saskatoon Police Service in a press statement. “If someone says they were picking up a CD on the floor when they lost control, that is distracted driving. Changing the radio station, smoking a cigarette, reading a map or your mail – these are all examples of how a driver can be distracted. We’ve even seen people watching Netflix while driving.”
To prevent any temptation, police suggest putting phones somewhere out of reach when driving, such as in the backseat or in a purse, or if need be, experienced drivers may mount it on the dashboard to use hands-free.
“The average car or lightweight truck weighs over four thousand pounds,” said chief Evan Bray of Regina Police Service in a press statement. “That is two tons of comfort and convenience to get you to your destination…or it’s two tons of steel and glass that can take your life, or someone else’s, if you lose control. Is there any text message, photo or music selection in the world that could be more important than a human life?”
In Saskatchewan, simply holding a phone while behind the wheel can constitute distracted driving.
The penalty for distracted driving is a $280 fine and four demerit points under the SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program.
Offenders caught using their cellphone while driving for a second time within one year will have their vehicle seized for seven days.