By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Across the province, the fine for talking or texting while driving is going up by more than $100 on Tuesday, March 18.
© Steven Smeall
Before fines for distracted driving nearly double on March 18, Cornwall police constable Matt Dupuis keeps an eye out for drivers using handheld devices during a distracted drivers blitz.
City cops held a distracted drivers blitz on Wednesday to warn motorists about the costly spike from $155 to $280.
Cornwall police constable Matt Dupuis stood at the intersection of Pitt and Eleventh streets to catch drivers playing with their cellphone, MP3 player or any other electronic handheld devices.
In two hours, a dozen tickets were issued.
"Distracted driving is a major issue in the City of Cornwall and it causes a lot of collisions," said Dupuis.
Drivers can still use hands-free devices (Bluetooth), call 911, and there are no demerit points.
The $125 spike is the first increase since October 2009, when the ban on handheld devices came into effect. The new fine includes a victim surcharge fee of $50 and $5 court fee.
"Our goal is to change unsafe driver behaviour and improve safety for everyone," said Cornwall police constable Dan Cloutier. "Fines and penalties act as an effective deterrent, but they are only one tool in the Provincial Traffic Safety Program."
Cloutier, who is also the media relations officer for the Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS), said sound scientific research and police experience indicates that driving distracted is at least as dangerous as driving impaired.
The Ontario Provincial Police's (OPP) Distracted Driving campaign (March 8 to 14) is also trying to get the attention of drivers before the price of talking or texting while behind the wheel nearly doubles.
Since Saturday, March 10, East Region OPP officers have laid 84 distracted driving charges.
In 2013, distracted driving fatalities surpassed both impaired and speed related fatalities in fatal motor vehicle collisions investigated by the OPP. A total of 78 people died in distracted driving related collisions compared to 57 impaired driving deaths and 44 speed related deaths last year.
The OPP is asking the public to support their campaign through their social media. Go to the OPP's Facebook and/or Twitter (@OPP_ER) pages and let them know how you plan on helping to eliminate distracted driving on Ontario roads.