Thursday, October 01, 2009

Talk Time Not Drive Time

Canada’s largest province is going hands-free – sort of.

Drivers in Ontario, Canada, will face fines up to $500CDN if they watch, listen, text, type, email, dial, or talk on any hand-held device while driving. This ban includes all cell phones, smart phones, portable video games and DVD players.

The ban on using hand-held devices takes effect Oct. 26, but begins with a gradual three-month public education grace period, where offenders will be sternly warned, but not fined. Repeat offenders may not only be fined, but could also be charged with additional infractions, such as careless driving, which adds more fines, lost demerit points, and the possibility of being tossed in jail.

Hands-free devices are not included in the ban. However, the province doesn’t condone their use, saying drivers need their full attention focused on the operation of their vehicles.

Bravo Queen’s Park – the province’s legislative assembly -- for taking the right steps towards protecting us all.

Person with PDA handheld device.Image via Wikipedia

Over 50 countries already have banned yacking on your cell phone (or other mobile device) while driving, because statistics show an increase in accidents involving those on these communication marvels. Other jurisdictions which have banned using hand-held devices while driving include Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, and California and New York states in the U.S.A.

A study by the VirginiaTech Transportation Institute says truck drivers are 23 times more likely to have a crash if they are sending a text message, when compared to drivers not “texting.” The study also found that “texting” took a driver’s focus off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds – that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field at about 60KM/hour.

Another study by Clemson University found drivers that text message and use their iPods are 10 percent more likely to accidentally drift into another lane or off the road completely.

There are already far too many bad drivers out on our public roads, giving them the ability to talk – or worse – text message – while driving is no less dangerous than giving a kid a loaded shot gun and saying, “have fun.”

Granted, driving is second nature to most of us, we do it so often, we sometimes forget that it actually involves a lot of muscle control, attention to details, and quick thinking – just to name a few of the many skills we employ while sitting behind the wheel.

And if you believe some of the hype, those radicals calling for cell phone bans while driving compare it to drinking and driving. However that analogy is far fetched, although cell phones distract drivers, they don’t physically change a driver’s cognitive abilities, as alcohol does by slowing the firing of neurons in the brain.

There are so many distractions to motorists – from the traffic around them, to the radio and CD player in their own vehicle, to the numerous signs, billboards, and pedestrians surrounding them.

Add in the ability to check your voicemail, text message your friends about getting together after work, or even trying to pick up members of the opposite sex on a singles dating chat line (as one teenage girl was doing, when she rolled her dad’s brand new four-wheeled drive BMW a few months back) – can you really oppose this new legislation in Ontario?

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