Distracted driving and pedestrian fatalities on steady climb

Pedestrian deaths reaching new high, police warn at auto show

More people are texting and calling while driving their vehicles. Since 2011, the Toronto Police have issued more than 110,000 charges related to distracted driving.

That’s why during the recent Canadian International Auto Show, the OPP were there not to shop for the latest vehicles, but to promote public safety on the road.

“The fact that you’re holding [a cell phone] in your hand, you’ve committed the offence,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP’s Highway Safety Division at the show. “One of the other things that go along with distracted driving, which is a huge issue, is that we’ve seen a huge increase in pedestrian fatalities as well.”

About 30 people lost their lives in 2016 in pedestrian fatalities, Schmidt said.

“And that was probably a 15-year high or longer that we haven’t seen those numbers in that degree and a lot of that is because of inattention and distractions,” Schmidt said.

“It doesn’t take officers very long to drive down the highway and see someone holding their phone, and as soon as they do,” Schmidt said. “If they see them holding their phone, it’s an automatic traffic stop, and a ticket, $490 penalty, demerit points is associated with that as well. That’s something that we’re going to continue to message and try to remind motorists the consequences of that.”

In the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show, manufacturers introduced the latest models and trends in the automotive industry. The latest models with advanced car entertainment system have raised the bar and continue to build on enhancing the user’s experience.

They made it easier for users to connect their phone to the vehicles, allowing the user to use the phone hands-free and legally make phone calls. However, it is still distracting the drivers, Schmidt said.

Interior of the Chevrolet Volt (MICHAEL LINENNEN/TORONTO OBSERVER)

“Cognitively, that takes away some of your attention from driving, and I’m sure there’s people out that have been driving on their Bluetooth, having a conversation, and they missed their exit because they haven’t been paying attention to where they are going,” he said. “You might have your hands on the wheel, you might be looking at where you’re going, but you have no idea what you’re doing.”