Editorial — April 7, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Some people just don’t learn.

And some people seem to be completely unwilling to learn.

The subject of this frustration is people’s continued use of cellphones when they are behind the wheel.

A recent case in Vancouver is ground zero for this wanton recklessness.

A Vancouver driver has been given 26 tickets in the last three years by using his electronic device while he is behind the wheel.

The last move by Vancouver Police will see his car impounded for seven days after he was arrested for driving while prohibited.

The next time he tries to get his insurance, police say his licence will cost $30,000 because he has 69 penalty points.

He’s been dinged for 26 fines of $167, which adds up to $4,342

It really makes you wonder about the addiction that people have to their mobile devices.

You won’t drive far in Prince Albert on a normal day without spotting a driver yammering on their cellphone. It’s an illegal act that can’t be defined by sex, age or race. A frustratingly large portion of local drivers seem to be doing it despite the provincial laws against it.

For the record, the fine in Saskatchewan is $280. It ranges across the country from $100 in the Northwest Territories to a high of $400 in P.E.I. and Newfoundland Labrador.

So what’s the big fuss?

A recent story in USA Today -- quoting a study by the National Safety Council -- suggested that cellphones cause an amazing 26 per cent of accidents in the United States.

More than four million crashes a year are blamed on phone use.

And you can’t blame that just on the texters, who cause five per cent of accidents. The simple act of speaking on a phone is the biggest problem.

A 2009 study by the Journal of Safety Research found that hands-free devices are only marginally safer.

The toll is staggering. In the U.S. in 2011, cellphones were blamed for 350 fatal crashes. These weren’t 350 soldiers or firefighters or police officers heroically dying in the line of duty. These are 350 crashes caused because people who couldn’t ignore their phone.

Canadian stats are similar. One study found that one in 20 drivers on any road is on their phone.

Distracted driving in all of its many forms is estimated to cause 80 per cent of crashes in Canada, with cellphone use being one of the largest distracting elements.

The frightening thing is that young drivers between 16 and 20 overwhelmingly admit to texting while driving, which makes something dangerous one step scarier. A 2010 study found a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely to get into an accident.

Ontario banned cellphone use for drivers in 2009 and has seen phones as a cause in deaths rise from 19 per cent to 26 per cent. It’s baffling.

It doesn’t take long to pull over and send a text or take a call.

Let’s end this parade of statistics by bringing them close to home.

SGI says that more than 7,500 collisions occurred in Saskatchewan in 2012 because of distracted driving.

And sadly, 69 people died. And an even sadder fact is that some of those 69 would have been people paying attention to the road who were killed by someone who quite often couldn’t turn off their phone.

It probably isn’t fair when someone does something stupid and it kills them. It’s tragic when a motorist pays with their life for somebody else’s stupidity.

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: Prince Albert, Vancouver Police, USA Today National Safety Council Journal of Safety Research Daily Herald

Geographic location: Vancouver, Saskatchewan, United States Northwest Territories P.E.I. Newfoundland Labrador Canada Ontario

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