By Ken Swann (August 30, 2014)
I remember the first time I ever saw a cell phone. I was working on a construction job in downtown Toronto around 1985. One of the men I was working with had a small business on the side and had purchased one to make calls during his breaks.
It was the size of a small lunch box, the phone was mounted inside with an antenna fastened on the back, it was huge and I had never seen anything like it before.
It was 1994 before I got one, by then it was almost the same size as a regular house phone and all the company’s were working diligently to make them smaller and smaller.
Nowadays it would seem that everyone has a cell phone from young kid’s rights up to elderly grandmothers. It’s become the normal thing in our society and if you want to be part of this new generation then you will have to be in possession of one of the newest and most efficient phones on the market.
The problem is now we can’t live without them, were addicted to them, they are everything to us, and we just can’t seem to put them down. So what happens when we get behind the wheel? you guessed it, we take our phones with us and we use them while were driving.
An article featured July 14, 2014 (The Toronto Star) entitled “Teens At Risk” made the point that although people of all ages are guilty of this offence our texting teenagers certainly warrant special attention.
Data on texting teens comes from a massive province-wide survey of Grade 7 to 12 students done by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It found that more than one-third of those with a drivers license in Grades 10 to 12 reported texting at least once behind the wheel in the previous year. Imagine the outrage if these statistics were for driving drunk on occasion, somehow texting has not been taken as seriously even though it has been proven to be much more dangerous.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has done extensive studies on distracted driving and found that texting behind the wheel is particularly dangerous for the inexperienced. Eyes off the road time, when texting, averages 4.6 seconds, too long to be driving blind.
One solution might be to add distracted driving provisions to Ontario’s existing graduated licensing system. Another solution would be to toughen up the existing penalties which are already in place.
Premier Kathleen Wynn has expressed appropriate concern noting that early indulgence in texting while driving could lead to a difficult to shake habit or addiction down the road. She has introduced new legislation with increased fines of up to $1000 plus three demerit points.
It’s important to make these actions happen as quickly as possible. It’s a matter of basic public safety. Distracted drivers now kill more people in Ontario than do drunk or impaired drivers.
One thing the province mustn’t do is simply shrug and except texting by drivers as a symptom of modern life. It’s far too dangerous to be left unaddressed.