Transportation groups call for province-wide crackdown on drivers using cell phones
Published Tuesday, November 7, 2017 1:18PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:26PM EST
Group after group told provincial politicians the same story Tuesday: the province needs to crack down on drivers who use cell phones.
A National Assembly committee is studying the possibility of increasing penalties for distracted drivers, because while using a phone behind the wheel is illegal, police are still catching thousands of scofflaws each year.
Distracted drivers are now responsible for more injuries in car crashes than any other category of driver.
Driver distraction is also cited as the cause of 80 deaths a year -- about one-quarter of all roadway fatalities.
The current penalty for distracted driving, which includes holding a cell phone, is four demerit points and a fine of $80 to $100.
Sophie Gagnon, the president of CAA Quebec, would like to see the penalty for repeat offenders increased to six demerit points.
"The main target should be the people that don't get the message and keep using their telephone behind the wheel," said Gagnon. "We think that sending a stronger message will have an impact on the entire population of drivers."
Most drivers are allowed 15 demerit points before their licence is removed, with demerits remaining for two years following the date of the conviction (the date a fine is paid).
The SAAQ presented data Tuesday showing that driving while using a cell phone is about as dangerous as driving while drunk.
The provincial agency has been tracking crashes for decades, and says its data shows the most common time for distracted drivers to be in a crash is between noon and 6 p.m. -- during the afternoon rush hour.
It would like to increase the penalties for distracted driving, but noted that police may be reluctant to write tickets for offences if officers believe the penalties are too harsh.
Quebec Transport Minister Andre Fortin said his ministry has been working to modernize the Highway Safety Code.
“It's something that I intend to continue to work on and to present very shortly. But certainly improving highway safety through stiffer penalties is something that will be addressed,” he said.
Quebec’s automobile insurance board, the SAAQ, is also in favour of stiffer penalties.
“We will look at the proposals, but of course if we can reduce the number of accidents, we would like to see that, so we're open to all kinds of suggestions,” said SAAQ vice-president André Legault
Following a deadly crash in Kamouraska, a coroner recommended last year technological blocks to prevent any use of a cell phone while driving.