Skip to content

Police use drone to nab drivers using cell phones

Thunder Bay police say some drivers have become adept at using their phones while concealing them from view

THUNDER BAY — City police are taking advantage of a new tool in their efforts to crack down on distracted driving.

Police have successfully tested the use of a camera-equipped drone to spot motorists texting or dialing on their cell phones while they're behind the wheel.

During a recent two-hour trial, three drivers were ticketed after being observed while stopped at intersections.

A conviction carries a $615 fine, three demerit points, and a three-day suspension of driving privileges which requires payment of an additional fee for reinstatement.

Acting traffic Sgt. Sal Carchidi said some motorists have become quite creative at concealing their phones while they're using them, such as by holding them under the steering column.

Carchidi said it can also be difficult for an officer to see a phone from outside a vehicle that has a higher ground clearance.

"One of our officers had the idea to utilize our drone. We'll launch it in a public area, either from the sidewalk or a lot near an intersection, and from an elevation we're able to monitor if a person may be using their cell phone."

He said it takes two officers to work with the drone, one to operate it and the other to serve as the observer.

"They would make an observation of a person holding a hand-hand communication device. They would then relay the details of that to other officers who are parked close by, including a description of the vehicle or its license plate. Then they would be stopped and issued an offence notice."

Carchidi said he hopes the drone serves as a further deterrent to motorists because distracted driving is a well-known cause of collisions.

"There's definitely a lot of collisions in the city where officers suspect cell phones contributed, but it's difficult to prove short of someone seeing that person on their phone. We take the stand that cell phone use is a major cause of collisions. We take it seriously with enforcement, as does the province with the fines and suspensions that they've applied to it."

Under Ontario law,  it is illegal to use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial while driving, including when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks