Tbnewswatch Local News
Wednesday July 8 2015
12:22 AM EDT
2014-02-25 at 13:51

Stiffer penalties

Photo Illustration by Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

Sending that text while driving is about to get more expensive.

The province will be putting some more teeth behind its distracted driving laws starting March 18. Motorists charged with using a cell phone or similar electronic device while driving after that date will receive a fine of $280, which is up from the current fine of $155.

Thunder Bay Police Service traffic Sgt. Glenn Porter says the dangers associated with distracted driving rivals that of impaired driving, speeding and improper use of seatbelts as some of the most significant issues police face with vehicular safety.

“Over the course of the last couple of years the police have been putting out a message to the public that this is a dangerous thing,” Porter said on Tuesday. “It’s one of the top four concerns we have as enforcement agencies and I think the public are listening to that and agree this is a serious problem.”

According to data provided by the OPP, distracted driving is cited as a factor in 30 to 50 per cent of collisions, though they estimate that number is likely higher.

Over the past year city police have used their creativity to combat distracted driving.

Officers took part in numerous sting operations, one of which included partnering with railroad police posed as construction workers on the James Street Swing Bridge this past summer and fall.

One of the bridge operations resulted in 15 tickets for using a phone, while another operation that utilized the vantage point of a Thunder Bay Transit bus led to another 11 charges.

Porter said police are forced to get creative with their enforcement blitzes because distracted driving charges are difficult to prove.

“It’s a real challenge for police. We have to present evidence to court that says we saw the person use a device while driving,” he said.

“The first thing they do when they see a marked police car is drop the phone or take it away from their ear, but we know it’s still going on. I think what this change in the penalty is going to do is make the efforts the police are doing a little more significant.”

The use of hands-free devices remains legal.

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Brutus02 says:
The fine should be confiscation and forfeiture of the phone,the $280 fine and demerit points (i.e. higher insurance cost). That will make people smarten up. There are far too many who can barely drive while paying attention. .
2/27/2014 4:16:40 PM
MLFan says:
Kaseybear I agree with you on impounding the car for 30 days but after walking for a year or riding a bus to get around will have a more profound impact on them and will definitely teach them a lesson they won't soon forget plus ban them from owning or using a cell phone will get the message across Either way the laws have to be extreme to teach people the dangers of driving while distracted
2/27/2014 10:53:26 AM
nascarrulez says:
Hey MAX, for your information, I have posted on here under !) times total. I wouldn't care how much it would cost to equip the cars because then the city police would be following the law, just like the rest of the citizens in T.Bay. Also, My posts have been equally split between support and criticism.

As for your cost to the public comment, I think that we don`t pay enough in this city. The focus is always on keeping tax increases as low as possible, but at some point you have to realize that we will all have to pay more in taxes in order for this city to move forward and prosper. And yes, I do own my own home and pay taxes.
2/27/2014 2:14:43 AM
fromoutoftown says:
Fine them $1000 period........
2/26/2014 2:44:25 PM
MurilloMom says:
Initially I SHOUTED, YIPPEE when I heard the news re the increased fine. Then I started to think about the fellow I was behind yesterday who had his DOG tethered to the box of his open truck box, driving down Memorial, not a care in the world, coffee in hand and cigarette firmly implanted in his yap !!
Will these morons be taken to task for that kind of animal abuse .. it sure distracted me and many others ..
He did get followed by a fellow in an Escalade ..
Bottom line, THINK before you get behind the wheel of your vehicle .. YOU are responsible for what happens as soon as tou turn on the ignition ..
2/26/2014 2:35:06 PM
S Duncan says:
Cool story bro!

you need to get a life.

stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and worry about your own vehicle.

tell that to helpful Hazel in the Escalade too.
2/26/2014 3:30:40 PM
MLFan says:
Maybe take away their driving privileges for a year and a larger fine will deter them from using their phones while driving.
2/26/2014 10:53:28 AM
kaseybear says:
MLFan you are not far off.. but I think a year ia a little harsh, perhaps a roadside 30 day suspension and impound of the vehicle for the same amount of time as well. after walking and texting for a month they might think twice about doing it after they get there vehicle back
2/26/2014 12:42:54 PM
socialist_fool says:
What's with all the criticism? I'm guessing those calling this a money grab have not done their research. The consequences of texting/calling while driving are just as real as drinking and driving - it's deadly. And typically, the conversations can wait. Bringing attention to police (who are specifically trained to handle such distractions) or joking about how eating,smoking,etc should be fined too just shows that you really don't give a damn about the safety and well-being of others, because all you're doing is diverging the issue, and thinking about yourselves and how you don't want to pay money for being far too absorbed in your cell phone.

Mobile technology have been taking over people's lives. They're forgetting what really matters - that real people exist outside your own little world, who have the right to be safe and respected whether their driving, walking, biking...just as you do. Think of more than your wallets, people. The world may become a better place.
2/26/2014 10:31:45 AM
hunterthedog says:
Clearly you are not understanding what some of us are saying. I, for one, believe in the cell phone ban of TEXTING, but not in simply talking. I have my cell phone connected to my stereo via bluetooth. Which is perfectly legal. But since you are an expert, tell me why I can't lift my phone to my ear, press ONE speed dial button, and talk, when I can eat with one hand, mess with the radio stations, pet the dog, hold my girlfriends hand and talk to her, or even have one (or both)of my arms AMPUTATED and legally drive? Just explain that logic to me please. And BTW, police are still saying that if you really need to make a call, pull over to the shoulder and stop, which is about 10 times more dangerous than continuing on and driving with one hand. I have had many, many more close calls getting smoked on the side of a highway than when moving.
2/26/2014 2:52:48 PM
ou812 says:
Whats next, fines for listening to music while driving?

If I want to text while stopped at one of Thunder Bay's too numerous traffic lights whats the big deal. Ontario is becoming too regulated.
2/26/2014 9:51:07 AM
S Duncan says:
Be careful what you (even sarcastically) wish for.

Under a Liberal provincial government Ontario has been transformed from a have and freedom province to a debt ridden disaster now known as Bantario.

Ontario has banned so many things under the liberals its maddening. Do you know they almost banned a certain voldka because the bottle was too scary?

I think it was "crystal head/skull". The bottle sort of resembled a human skull. It wasnt banned in the end but they forced the company to sell it in a box.

I guess all those people that are of legal drinking age couldnt handle the frightening skulls on the liquor store shelves? I guess the liberals wet themselves every halloween too.

Liberals hide their actions under the cover of a name pretending to support liberty but in reality they are far from it. The NDP gently hide their communist values as well.

This is one law I agree with though but lets face it, its unenforceable and just another emotional law revenue stream

2/26/2014 12:58:41 PM
nascarrulez says:
The police in this city are some of the worse offenders of this law! I see them driving while on their phones all the time. The law should apply to everyone equally. If they need it for to their duty, then they should have hands free installed in their cruiser.
2/25/2014 10:18:11 PM
hardrawkin says:
I was distracted this morning trying to dodge all the potholes in our crumbling roads.
2/25/2014 8:56:09 PM
whatelseisnew says:
I'm glad the fines are going up. In fact I hope they go to $1000 because if smokers can now get fined for smoking outdoors why should people that do this. Also texting and driving kills WAY faster then second hand smoke ever has or ever will.
2/25/2014 6:42:23 PM
moneyfornothing says:

So people are not getting the message and the penalty is increased.
I like it, but this should also apply to those that break in to your house, your car, or stab someone. There is no shortage of people not getting the message when it comes to these crimes.
Somehow repeat probation and a slap on the wrist is the solution when it comes to criminal offences.
I am all for some rehab but not when it comes to my hard earned property or violent offences.
You commit a violent crime you should go to jail. Sure it cost money but what is the cost of letting these people out to commit more crimes.
Read the news and you will see the majority of people arrested are also charged with some type of breach.
Everyone has a choice. To text and drive, to break into a home, or rob a store.
Its time that everyone is held accountable for their own actions.
Quit blaming your criminal behaviour on any excuse you can find only after you have been caught.
2/25/2014 6:36:19 PM
unheard says:
easy way to stop it
federal government pass a law that requires all new automobiles to have shielding of sorts that blocks the signals from entering vehicle
2/25/2014 6:30:33 PM
hunterthedog says:
Unheard: brilliant comment. So your passenger or kid can't access their phones? How about Onstar? That wouldn't work either. Or let's say you hit black ice, slide off the road into the bush, and your car is so wrecked that the doors won't open, and you can't call for help? Wow. Perhaps put even a tiny bit of thought into your comments before you type such nonsense.
2/26/2014 8:53:47 AM
Kam River says:
It is a money grab.
I believe when the local media ask the City and OPP if there has ever been as serious accident when a person charge with distracted drive and answer was NO!
There was a Toronto Star story quoting police that they can charge people for drinking coffee and driving or having an open coffee cup near the driver.
The Liberals will do anything to bring in money.
It is not a safty issue other wise the Police would not be allow to drive one handed using a phone or in high speed chases drive one handed with a radio and cord taking on the radio.
2/25/2014 6:29:52 PM
cookie monster says:
Do you drive our highways at all? Almost every day I see someone gabbing on the phone or texting. They are either driving too slow or too fast. They brake suddenly because they haven't been paying attention to the traffic ahead of them. You can easily spot the distracted driver - and they do cause accidents. Bravo to increased fines.
2/27/2014 3:19:59 PM
brooky says:
Wanna bet that someone makes a text while you drive app? One push of a button and your current texting session is gone forever. No proof. No ticket.
2/25/2014 6:23:15 PM
AndersonSilvasLeg says:
It will work until they subpoena your phone records and go through all of your outgoing/incoming calls, messages, etc.
2/26/2014 11:34:53 AM
timeforchange says:
I am all for criticizing the cops but on this issue I think folks need to think a little bit more.

They have radio's that they need to use to speak to their people. They have to do this in chases, or responding to calls for help. They are trained for that sort of thing, plus using lights and sirens when the need arises.

I just think if they can do all of that, talking on the phone is probably a breeze.

Not scientific at all, but I would be interested to know what people think.
2/25/2014 6:10:27 PM
fairlane says:
Excellent point and question.

I don't think radios and phones for voice calls are the issue. Think about it for a moment. I for one have owned a cell phone since 1990. For 20 years we were able to freely talk on the phone while driving. Although there were a few reported accidents over the years it hasn't become a big issue until text messaging came along. I think that's where the real distraction is.

I don't think officers are better trained in how to drive and use a radio or phone. Honestly, when they're responding to a call their senses are on a alert. I'm referring to the day to day cruising and gabbing on the phone. That's where the distraction lies.
2/26/2014 11:33:13 AM
enos012 says:
Do the same thing as drunk driving, suspend the license! A fine increase just shows me the government is desperate for $$$ and not taking it seriously!
2/25/2014 6:08:45 PM
Et says:
Your eyes don't leave the road while eating
Drinking or smoking
2/25/2014 5:36:27 PM
hunterthedog says:
Please explain this statement. You have to look away to grab your smokes, then look down to press in the lighter or grab a match. Eating, same thing. Also, you have to look down while messing with your radio stations or adjusting the volume, reaching down to grab a dropped item, hell looking in our rear view mirror! Where can it end??
2/26/2014 8:24:28 AM
blah blah says:
police are doing there job, leave them alone. should we tell fight fighters and ambulance drivers not to drive faster than the posted limits.
2/25/2014 5:07:59 PM
fairlane says:
Police are doing a great job..no question.
I'm referring to the non-emergency periods when they're cruising the streets. The smiling and laughing expression is a good clue that they're probably not using it to track a suspect.
As for speed, there's a big difference. These crews will be running with the flashing lights on.
I have yet to see anyone driving an emergency vehicle at high speed talking on the phone. It's always at normal speeds when their distraction level is no different than ours.
2/26/2014 8:21:39 AM
Surfer79 says:
It's all good though drinking that coffee and eating that burger with a cigarette in your mouth is still legal. Fewwwww.
2/25/2014 4:18:49 PM
rootbear says:
Awesome! But fines are just monetary. Need to hit them where it hurts and that's demerits. Eventually we hope.
2/25/2014 4:09:15 PM
dethyr says:
Yet drunk driving fines remain the same...
2/25/2014 3:40:38 PM
fairlane says:
Just curious...will this new update apply to police officers? I still see them gabbing on their phones, yet it's legal becuase it's part of the "duty".

I don't care who you are. Distracted driving is distracted driving, Period.
2/25/2014 3:20:16 PM
tbaynorth says:
The law does allow for police to use their phones while in the course of their duties. The focus needs to remain with the public since if a police officer causes an accident due to their phone use, they have more to worry about than a fine (ie. job loss, suspension).
Do you not think that their entire job involves distracted driving... looking for suspects, watching for law-breakers, keeping watch for public safety. Most of their focus is not on the road, but do we hear of police accidents every day?
Our officers work hard for the betterment of Ontario and should not be attacked pointlessly.
2/26/2014 7:42:00 AM
fairlane says:
That's not what I said. Read my comments to another comment below. There's no question they're doing a good job. This isn't about bashing their work. There is a point to this issue. It's not pointless.

If they get suspended for getting into an accident that means that they shouldn't have been on the phone in the first place! Police accidents daily? I think you're stretching it a bit to make a point.

I totally agree that they're job is a distraction. More support to not using hand held devices!!! We had to install Bluetooth devices, so there's no excuses for them not to.
2/26/2014 9:54:46 AM
hunterthedog says:
i have always thought that this law was a bit off...I am all for road safety. most of us have had family and friends die in crashes. but the law doesnt really address much. what about eathing, doing your makeup, yapping to a friend next to you, looking at the pretty clothes in storefronts, etc etc. And yes, I know it's a "distracting driving law", not a "cell phone use" law. but has anyone EVER received one of these tickets that wasn't for use a cell phone??

seems like a cash grab to me. What if I only had one arm, or NO arms?? how is THAT safer than holding my phone to my head, or driving with one arm while yapping at my buddy next to me? Or screaing kids in the back seat! Anyone ever received a ticket for being distracted by their kids??

2/25/2014 3:15:52 PM
laurie says:
it should be a distraction fine... and include drivers with dogs on their laps and women applying make up while driving

what about the city bus drivers, police, taxi drivers who text while driving?

2/25/2014 3:09:17 PM
Dockboy says:
If not your own, then at least save someone elses life, put the #@%*& phone away! I just can't believe the amount of people I see talking on the phone when they're driving. Then of course you have those hideous individuals who text while driving. Fines should be $500.00 for phoning and $1000.00 for texting.
2/25/2014 3:08:47 PM
passlake says:
Distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. The penalties should be the same. Caught texting? Immediate roadside suspension, demerits points, court, etc.

$280 is laughable. Most phones cost more than that.
2/25/2014 2:56:07 PM
TIC says:
Great!! Far to many idiots out there.
2/25/2014 2:45:04 PM
NowayJose says:
Good to hear! The increased fine may or may not be a deterrent. Until people choose to drive undistracted, I will continue to lock up my brakes and hope, for their sake, that they don’t find themselves under the back end of my truck with the device lodged in their mouth!
2/25/2014 2:43:54 PM
Eastender says:
So your solution is to injure some one as a penalty for using their phone? And people agree with you?

Remember, that person on the phone is someones mom, sister, daughter, wife, son, father, maybe one of yours.
2/26/2014 9:22:35 AM
Tannoy says:
You should not have a license, period. Your willing to cause an accident on purpose? You should not drive, ever.
2/26/2014 10:33:28 AM
NowayJose says:
I will never claim to be the best on the road but I am very careful. I agree that being a licenced driver for 32 years without having a fault accident (they hit me) does not give me the right. In my opinion, it does give me the right to tap (or lock up my brakes) to discourage this kind of behavior. Should there be a time when I am so concerned about distracted drivers and looking out for them when I no longer pay attention to the road and possible injure Mom, Dad, Sister or Brother? Just remember, driving is a privilege, not a right.
2/26/2014 1:54:42 PM
stonecutter says:
Going out of your way to purposely induce an accident is wrong. Stay home old man.

you claim 32 years without being charged with an accident but that is a bunch of BS when you admit you are intentionally trying to cause them.
2/26/2014 3:50:44 PM
NowayJose says:
Thank you stonecutter for your comments, this is a great forum!
I truly wish you good luck driving our roads! I would never wish for something bad to happen to you and yours. Take care!
2/26/2014 4:59:29 PM
YoungTbay84 says:
With increasing the fine, maybe add demerit points. $280 is a lot for some put but I think people are still not going to take distracted driving seriously. Maybe even have these people that get ticketed have to take a course on the consequences of distracted driving. Show some horrible crashes that can happen because you decided to look at your phone or whatever for a split second.
2/25/2014 2:26:54 PM
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