The province is set to crack down on “high-risk” drivers, raising fines and lengthening licence suspensions.

Officials say the present penalty of $200 and two demerits hasn’t deterred enough drivers from using handheld cellphones to text or talk behind the wheel. That’s why the penalty will soon increase from two to five demerits.

The resulting driver safety rating adjustment will lead drivers to pay between $542 and $3,200 in added costs over the five years following the ticket, depending on their previous driving records.

“Some drivers just simply aren’t getting the message,” said Ward Keith, a vice-president of Manitoba Public Insurance. “Distracted driving is now rivalling impaired driving as a major contributor to collisions and serious injuries.”

Winnipeg Police Service reports 2,838 distracted driving tickets have been issued in 2015 and 5,136 were doled out in 2014. In spite of campaigns designed to educate drivers about the dangers of distraction, the number of tickets has actually increased from 3,568 tickets in 2011.

“There’s a new emerging culture where people seem to think it’s OK to use our cellphones while driving,” said police Staff Sgt. Andy Golebioski. “We need to be sure people separate those type of things from the driving task.”

Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh noted 28 people are killed each year due to distracted driving in Manitoba and another 29 killed due to impaired driving.

The province’s Safer Roads Act, tabled Thursday, triples the suspension from 24 to 72 hours for drivers with a blood alcohol content between 0.5 and 0.8. Licences will be suspended seven days for those caught driving in that condition with a passenger 16 years old or younger.

Those convicted of impaired driving will also be required to install an ignition-interlock system for at least one year, removing an option to wait an extra year to drive and avoid using the device. Ignition-interlock devices are breathalyzers that will prevent a vehicle from starting when the driver who blows into the device has been drinking.

“The most tragic part is that every single one of those crashes is avoidable. To reduce those numbers, we need strong laws,” said Melody Bodnarchuk, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Winnipeg chapter.

The act also requires police to speed up licence suspensions by notifying the registrar of motor vehicles whenever a driver is charged with a serious driving-related offence.

The distracted driving changes will take effect July 1, while other changes will be implemented once the legislation passes.

Source: Winnipeg Sun


Last updated on: 2015-06-13 | Link to this post