By Jeff Sanford
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -- October 7, 2015 -- Saskatchewan drivers will want to keep their eyes on the road this month. Police in the province are paying special attention to distracted drivers this October.
Distracted driving is now the third largest factor in car accidents after impaired driving and speeding. Last year in the province twenty-six people were killed and nearly 600 were injured. The definition of distracted driving now includes cell-phone use behind the wheel, but also takes in other actions such as eating, grooming, setting a GPS or refereeing children.
Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) is involved in the blitz. According to that organization there were more than 3,300 collisions in Saskatchewan related to distracted driving last year. To draw attention to the issue, SGI has created a new province-wide multimedia advertising campaign that will begin to roll-out Thanksgiving Day.
According to Kelley Brinkworth, Manager of Public Relations at SGI, distracted driving is a serious issue. In an interview with Collision Repair magazine, she noted that, “Distracted driving is the number one contributing factor of collisions in Saskatchewan, meaning it leads to more crashes in our province than any other factor. It’s also a top contributing factor in fatal crashes in Saskatchewan. Distracted driving ranks third behind speeding and impaired driving.”
In 2014 in Saskatchewan, preliminary numbers show there were 3,377 collisions related to distracted driving, resulting in 26 deaths and nearly 600 injuries. “The good news is that distracted driving collisions seem to be on the decline since 2012. SGI is hopeful this decrease will continue,” said Brinkworth.
The definition of distracted driving now includes cell-phone use behind the wheel, but also takes in other actions such as eating, grooming, setting a GPS or refereeing children.
“It’s definitely not uncommon to still see people on their cellphones while driving, despite the laws in Saskatchewan addressing the issue,” said Brinkworth. She went on to explain that new legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones took effect in Saskatchewan on Jan. 1, 2010. Provincial law was amended to allow experienced drivers to use hands-free devices while driving. New drivers (those in the Graduated Driver’s Licensing program) cannot use hands-free devices.
SGI recommends that even when using hands-free devices, drivers safely pull over to the side of the road to use them. Police can issue a $280 fine for using a cell-phone while driving or driving without due care. Convictions result in four demerit points under SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program. Such a penalty could result in a financial penalty or loss of an insurance discount.
Another set of even tougher laws came into effect in Saskatchewan on June 27, 2014. The vehicle of someone caught for a subsequent or second distracted driving offence will have their vehicle seized for seven days. In the first year following the implementation of the second round of tougher laws, 35 drivers had their vehicle seized for using an electronic communication device while driving or for driving without due care and attention.