Update: September 22, 2011 Halton Police Used Excessive Force in Two (2) Separate Cases, January 6, 2011 (Saskatchewan , Saskatoon , Moose Jaw), October 31, 2010 – 914 Cell Phone Charges Laid, Cell Phone Use causes Brain Cancer, February 1, 2011 Cell Phone Law One (1) Year Later (Feb.1, 2010 – Feb.1, 2011), September 17, 2010 Impersonating Peace Officers, Cell Phone Ban has Netted Thousands of Tickets in Toronto, Cell Phone Ban to be Aggressively Enforced on February 1, 2010, November 24, 2009 Halton Police Fool Public by using Police Radar Cars Masquerading as Taxi’s, Cell Phone Ban effective October 26, 2009 on Ontario’s highways, streets & roads, O.P.P Laying Numerous Cellphone Charges before February 1, 2010, Restrictions on Cell Phones in Motor Vehicle
Halton Region police are not the only force implementing mandatory officer training to cut down on cruiser collisions.
The Ontario Provincial Police last year made it mandatory for all officers to receive such training — and unlike the Halton order, this applies to everyone, not just service drivers.
“There used to be a mindset in policing where you had to be the first one to arrive,” Sgt. Dave Ross of the OPP said. “We now teach them it’s more important to arrive safely sometimes. You’re no good if you’re in a ditch.”
Each OPP officer is taught to make a judgment call considering factors such as the urgency of the call, road conditions, traffic patterns and the vehicle being driven.
Information on the number of police vehicles — the OPP fleet has 3,400 marked and unmarked vehicles — involved in collisions and how they occurred wasn’t immediately available.
Ross acknowledged, however, that a significant portion of the OPP vehicle collisions don’t happen when officers are responding to calls.
In 2003, the OPP conducted a review of its cruiser collisions. In 2006, it hired a consultant to suggest ways to change officer behaviour, which was formalized in a “Collision Reduction Strategy.”
Former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino especially pushed to get away from the mindset that collisions are “simply a cost of doing business,” Ross said.
“Years ago, driving skills focused on the motor-functioning skills, and we recognized we had to start focusing on some of the cognitive skills because of the dynamic nature (of situations) officers are placed in,” Ross said.
Officers have to operate vehicles while handling radio calls and possibly activating roof lights and sirens.
Earlier this year, Halton instituted mandatory driver training for all officers who drive police vehicles. The move came after statistics showed a spike in collisions involving Halton police vehicles.
In the first six months of this year, Halton police cars were involved in 70 accidents, at a cost of $158,780 in damage to the cruisers — including four write-offs. Accidents are up 18 per cent from the same period in 2010 and 23 per cent over 2009.
Most of this year’s crashes, 41 of the 70, were classified as preventable. None occurred while travelling through red lights with emergency lights on.
“I don’t know if embarrassment is the term,” Sgt. Dave Cross said. “Certainly, it has caused us to institute this online driving course in an effort to curb that (crash numbers). Any collision is certainly a concern to us as a service.”
He stressed that the number of preventable crashes is down 5 per cent from last year and that most of the 41 preventable crashes resulted in no damage to the vehicles.
The main reason cited was hitting something while reversing, sometimes out of a mall parking spot. Other reasons included going too fast for the conditions, following too closely and making improper turns.
Cross said officers can be issued tickets for offences such as improper turns, but couldn’t say whether any officers involved in the crashes had been ticketed.
Those who are exempt from the cellphone Ontario law:
Police, Firefighters and Paramedics. Driver’s (who are not police,firefighters or paramedics) requiring emergency services, are exempt from the law if they are calling “911″.
As a driver in Ontario, you are exempt from this law if you are calling “911″ as a result of an emergency or if you are pulled over safely off of the roadway or you are properly parked.
Hand-held devices prohibited
Wireless communication devices
78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
Hands-free mode allowed
(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,
(a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle;
(b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;
(c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this subsection; or
(d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or circumstances. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact ambulance, police or fire department emergency services. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.