Ontario is considering the idea of putting signs on highways to alert drivers about upcoming areas where they can safely pull over to text or check their emails.
All three parties voted in favour on second reading of a private member’s bill from Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli to create so-called safe texting zones.
Fedeli said signs on highways would inform drivers about 185 existing areas such as commuter parking lots, transit stations and rest stops where they can safely pull off to use their smart phones or tablets.
He said he got the idea while driving through Pennsylvania and New York, and saw signs in both states promoting safe texting zones, and said it would not require any new infrastructure.
Fines are not enough, MPP says
Fedeli said increased fines are not enough to curb distracted driving habits, and said safe texting zones will save lives and help educate motorists about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.
The Ontario Provincial Police reported in March that distracted driving was the cause of more deaths on provincial highways than any other factor for the third consecutive year, contributing to 69 deaths in 2015.
Fedeli said he’s had widespread support from police, insurance companies, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Ontario Safety League for his Safe Texting Zones Act.
“It sends a clear message to distracted drivers that there is no longer any excuse to endanger themselves and those they share the road with,” said Fedeli. “Their text can wait until the next texting zone.”
Ontario stiffened penalties for distracted driving last fall, with a set fine of $490 that a judge could increase to $1,000, plus three demerit points on conviction.
New Democrat transport critic Wayne Gates told the legislature that it’s not just the younger drivers who text.
“Older people, seniors are doing it, and young people are doing it, and it’s putting people at risk,” said Gates.
Private member’s bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Fedeli is confident his will either be passed or be adopted by the Liberal government after members from all sides of the legislature spoke in favour of it.
Hospitals, malls and universities top the list of highest parking ticket volume in 2015, city data shows.
If you’re looking to avoid that parking ticket, you might want to stay clear of hospitals. Or malls. Or universities.
And if right now you’re thinking, “I’ll just park on a side street instead,” you might have another think coming.
Data of all parking tickets issued in Toronto in 2015, recently released by the city through its Open Data portal, shows the hotspots for parking enforcement haven’t changed much from previous years.
A little over 2 million tickets were issued last year, in line with previous years, with the most popular days falling in April and July. The highest ticket count fell on April 16 at 8,382 tickets.
As in previous years, Sunnybrook Hospital tops the list in sheer volume of tickets. More than 9,000 tickets, or roughly 25 a day, were issued at its 2075 Bayview Ave. address, more than 4,000 more than the next-highest address, 20 Edward St.
Many of the addresses topping the list, such as Sunnybrook, are not enforced by the Toronto Police Service, according to Brian Moniz, operations supervisor for parking enforcement west at TPS. Parking lots on private property, like those at shopping malls and hospitals, will get trained and licensed to enforce their own parking, which saves police resources.
“They would have the ability to enforce it on their property, as long as all our regulated requirements are met,” Moniz said.
Some of the addresses with high-ticket volume are close to urban hotspots. Edward St. is close to Yonge-Dundas Square, for example, while James St. is wedged between Old City Hall and the Eaton Centre.
For a public area like James St., Moniz said the issue is often parking that prevents police from getting access to the courthouse at Old City Hall.
“We have to ensure that there’s a free flow of traffic for the large prisoner vehicles that are coming in,” he said.
PARKING HOT SPOTS
From hospitals to malls and downtown hotspots, here are the addresses with the top ten (10) highest number of traffic tickets in 2015 (Source: City of Toronto):
Other: Right behind Yonge and Dundas, Edward St. might be a prime area for people hoping for close street parking to Yonge-Dundas Square and restaurants and shopping in the area. It also used to be the site of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, which closed in 2014.
Other: Wedged right between the Eaton Centre and Old City Hall, James St. has very little street parking but is regularly patrolled by parking enforcement officers. Police sometimes need to park on the street to transfer prisoners to court.
Starting June 1, distracted driving tickets will cost first-time offenders $368, up from $167
The B.C. government is raising penalties for distracted driving next month, with the fine for a ticket more than doubling to $368. More penalty points will also be added, and there will be tougher penalties for repeat offenders.
“Some people are still not getting the message,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said in a statement. “Today’s announcement … sends the message loud and clear. We will not tolerate distracted driving on our roads.”
Police don’t have the right tools to combat texting and driving, advocates say
A proposed New York state law that would allow police to test technology to check if drivers had been texting and driving before a crash — without a warrant — is causing controversy.
Advocates of the proposed law say better tools to help police enforce distracted-driving laws will discourage reckless behaviour such as texting and save lives.
But critics say the proposed law doesn’t contain enough safeguards to protect the privacy of drivers.
The proposed legislation was introduced as a bipartisan bill in April by Felix Ortiz, Democratic assistant speaker for the New York Assembly, and Republican Senator Terrence P. Murphy.
It requires any driver involved in a collision resulting in damage, injury or death to surrender to police any mobile device in their possession at or near the time of the collision.
Police would test the device for evidence of use in the minutes before the collision. Results of the test would be used as evidence of a violation of distracted-driving laws, which ban texting while driving.
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, a person is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash if they text while driving, compared with non-distracted drivers.
“There is a significant number of drivers who continually engage in reckless behavior, such as texting, using apps and browsing the web on their mobile devices while behind the wheel,” Ortiz said in a release announcing the proposal.
“These people will continue to put themselves and others at risk unless we give law enforcement better tools to enforce existing laws against the use of electronic devices while driving.”
In memory of Evan
Ortiz and Murphy developed the proposed law in collaboration with Ben Lieberman, co-founder of distracted driving awareness organization Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs). The law is being called “Evan’s law” after Lieberman’s son, who was 19 years old when he died a month after a collision that Lieberman believes was linked to texting and driving.
“We believe strongly that this is an impairment equal to if not worse than drunk driving,” Lieberman told CBC’s The Current Friday. He’s convinced that the proposed law will discourage such behaviour.
“Once people were held accountable for drunk driving issues, that’s when the problem started getting better,” he said.
Following the crash that killed Evan, the driver’s phone was never examined by police, Lieberman recalled.
“What we learned was that the police rarely look into the phone at all,” he added, “and it’s not their fault, because there isn’t a police protocol in place.”
Lieberman later subpoenaed the driver’s phone records for a civil lawsuit and learned that the driver had been texting while driving on an old road with difficult driving conditions.
“Anyone texting on that road is begging for a collision,” he said.
Technology thought to be feasible
Convinced that police didn’t have the right tools to investigate texting and driving, Lieberman contacted a company called Cellebrite that specializes in phone forensics. He asked if it was possible to create a device that police could plug into a phone at a crash site that would generate a report on the device’s usage during the drive, without revealing private information such as contacts or the content of conversations and text messages
Cellebrite told Lieberman it was confident it could create such a device, and he began working with New York legislators to propose a new law that would make use of it.
Cellebrite declined to be interviewed by The Current.
Andrew Selbst, scholar in residence at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said he agrees that texting and driving is a huge problem, but the proposed law as written doesn’t contain enough safeguards.
“One of problems with this is anyone who gets into accident with no evidence or even suspicion that they were actually texting and driving … will have to turn over their phone on penalty of losing their licence,” he told The Current. “That’s just not how we do it.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police can’t search a phone without a warrant.
Selbst noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that a warrant is needed to administer a breathalyzer to a driver in case of a suspected drunk driving collision. And that only happens in cases where there’s reason to suspect the driver was intoxicated — for example, if he or she was swerving while driving.
Lieberman opposes any requirement for a warrant to test for texting and driving.
“It’s just not practical, and it’s not getting done right now,” he said.
Selbst disagrees, saying that warrants take as little as five minutes to obtain.
“I would be in favour of the ability to apply some sort of technology that could check the phone,” he added, “but with additional safeguards such as warrant predicated on probable cause.”
He added that there’s also no way to know how well such technology protects privacy until it’s available and evaluated by a third party.
In the meantime, he thinks “a world of good could be done” by raising public awareness and training police to ask about distracted driving.
If you are caught carrying a radar detector in your vehicle in Ontario, police can confiscate your radar detector and you’ll receive a ticket, which carries a stiff fine ($175) and three (3) demerit points.
Here are traffic offences in Ontario which carry three (3) demerit points as a penalty:
Exceeding the speed limit by 16 to 29 km/h
Driving through, around or under a railway crossing barrier
Driving while holding or using a hand-held wireless communications/entertainment device or viewing a display screen unrelated to the driving task
Failing to yield the right-of-way
Failing to obey a stop sign, traffic light or railway crossing signal
Failing to obey traffic control stop sign
Failing to obey traffic control slow sign
Failing to obey school crossing stop sign
Failing to obey the directions of a police officer
Driving the wrong way on a divided road
Failing to report a collision to a police officer
Improper driving where road is divided into lanes
Crowding the driver’s seat
Going the wrong way on a one-way road
Driving or operating a vehicle on a closed road
Crossing a divided road where no proper crossing is provided
Failing to slow and carefully pass a stopped emergency vehicle
Failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing
Failing to move, where possible, into another lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle
Driving a vehicle that is equipped with or carrying a speed measuring warning device (such as a radar detector)
Improper use of a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane
“speed measuring warning device” means any device or equipment designed or intended for use in a motor vehicle to warn the driver of the presence of speed measuring equipment in the vicinity and includes any device or equipment designed or intended for use in a motor vehicle to interfere with the effective operation of speed measuring equipment. 1996, c. 33, s. 12.
Speed measuring warning device prohibited
(2)No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle that is equipped with or that carries or contains a speed measuring warning device. 1996, c. 33, s. 12.
Powers of police officer
(3) A police officer may at any time, without a warrant, stop, enter and search a motor vehicle that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe is equipped with or carries or contains a speed measuring warning device contrary to subsection (2) and may seize and take away any speed measuring warning device found in or upon the motor vehicle. 1996, c. 33, s. 12.
Forfeiture of device
(4) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, any device seized under subsection (3) by means of which the offence was committed is forfeited to the Crown. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (4).
(5) Every person who contravenes subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (5).
(6) Subsection (2) does not apply to a person who is transporting speed measuring warning devices in sealed packages in a motor vehicle from a manufacturer to a consignee. 1996, c. 33, s. 12.
Sale of speed measuring warning devices prohibited
(7) No person shall sell, offer or advertise for sale a speed measuring warning device by retail. 1996, c. 33, s. 12.
(8) Every person who contravenes subsection (7) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not more than $1,000; and
(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not more than $5,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 79 (8).