Coroner recommends adding texting while driving to Criminal Code
Published Monday, August 22, 2016 12:51PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 22, 2016 7:10PM EDT
A coroner wants texting while driving added to the Criminal Code.
Coroner Michel Ferland’s recommendation comes following the death of Jimmy Rotondo, killed after rear-ending a truck on Highway 13 in Laval on March 3.
The coroner’s report shows Rotondo was texting moments before the fatal accident.
While Ferland admits there's way no to determine with certainty texting caused the crash, he says it is the only explanation for what happened that morning.
"We cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was on his cell," said Ferland, adding, "the way the accident happened, he was distracted by something."
The circumstances weren't known immediately.
Rotondo was quite well known in Montreal's tight-knit racing community. He earned a living as a truck driver.
The morning of the crash, he had been travelling northbound on Highway 13 near St. Martin Blvd. when the truck ahead of him slowed down due to a car on the highway that was out of service. There waere also orange cones up ahead of them.
He slammed on the breaks too late, and the impact crushed the cab, trapping Rotondo inside. Rotondo’s phone was found on the floor of the passenger seat.
According to his cell phone, Rotondo posted to Facebook in the minutes leading up to the crash, which leads the coroner to conclude he was distracted by his phone and therefore didn't hit the brakes before it was too late.
In his report, the coroner calls texting while driving "a plague" and writes that people are so dependent on their phones that they are willing to risk their lives.
Ferland said the only way to deal with this issue is to make it a criminal offence similar to drinking and driving, and drivers who use hand-held devices and cause a crash resulting in severe injury or death should serve jail time. He wants the laws to change much the way they did in the 1980s for drinking and driving.
"They changed the law, they changed the way to establish the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and I think we can notice today there is a change," he said.
Ferland also recommends increasing demerit points from four to nine for a first offence, and allowing police to seize a driver's cell phone for 30 days.
The coroner's office has no power to change laws; but sends its reports to Justice Canada.
Ferland is not the first coroner to make this recommendation. Over the last few years, Quebec coroners have recommended a nine-demerit-point penalty for those caught texting while driving. Last year, it was increased from three to four points.
Another recommendation has been to ban the use of cell phones behind the wheel altogether.
According to the Quebec automobile insurance board, drivers are at four times the risk of getting into a car crash if they're holding a phone.