By Mike Davey
Toronto, Ontario -- May 24, 2016 -- Ontario motorists may one day see signs on the highway alerting them to areas where it's safe to pull over and send texts or check emails.
Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli, Member of Provincial Parliament for Nipissing, introduced a private member's bill to create "safe texting zones." All three parties voted in favour on second reading. However, it is worth noting that private member's bills rarely pass in Ontario. There are currently 45 private member's bills before the Ontario legislature in the current session.
In general, the idea is to post signs that would inform drivers of the 185 existing areas located close to highways where drivers could safely pull out of traffic and stop to use their mobile devices. The proposed areas include rest stops, commuter parking lots and bus and train stations.
Fedeli has said that he got the idea while driving through Pennsylvania and New York. Both states have similar signs promoting safe texting zones.
According to statistics from the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted driving has caused more fatalities on the province's highways than any other cause for three years in a row. Distracted driving caused or contributed to 69 deaths in 2015.
The penalties for distracted driving in Ontario were increased in 2015. The set fine is currently $490, with an option for judges to increase that to $1,000.
Texting while driving is often seen as a problem caused by younger drivers, but New Democrat transport critic Wayne Gates told legislators that the problem crosses demographics boundaries.
"Older people, seniors are doing it, and young people are doing it, and it's putting people at risk," said Gates.