With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, police on both sides of the border will be stepping up their surveillance on the roads, especially on the lookout for distracted driving. Ontario has stepped up its campaign against distracted driving, but officials say motorists still haven't gotten the message that using a cell phone while driving can be deadly.
Major highways in southern Ontario are some of the busiest in the country and have become some of the deadliest.
New data shows that distracted driving has become the biggest killer, even more than impaired driving or speeding combined. About 50 people have died on the roads this year in crashes blamed on distracted driving.
Several years ago, as cell phone use while driving increased, the province increased fines. It then doubled them, then doubled them again. But the message isn’t getting through.
"Despite all the education working with our media partners and the enforcement initiatives that are ongoing, drivers still feel this right to pick up the cell phone and talk on it while they’re driving or even texting, which is clearly by the numbers we’re seeing, a huge causal factor in injury and death on our highways," said Sergeant Dave Rektor, with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Rektor says even hands-free conversations can be a dangerous distraction.
Ontario is again considering upping the ante against distracted drivers and, in a first for Canada, it’s proposing legislation that would create a new offense for careless driving causing death or bodily injury, including a license suspension for up to five years, fines between $2,000 and $50,000 and up to two years in jail.