There does not seem to be a way to really get the message through. Texting on cellphones while driving, as well as while cycling and walking for that matter, can kill. Period. And it’s not just the younger generation putting their lives or other lives at risk by doing so.
As it now stands, drivers face fines of anywhere between $80 and $100 and receive four demerit points for using a cellphone (hands-free/bluetooth not included) in any way, while driving – that includes when a driver is stuck in traffic or even stopped at a traffic light. The law in Quebec requires that drivers park legally and safely on the side of the road to use their phones.
Many motorists in Quebec are not obeying the law. I’m sure many of you reading this are guilty of the above at one time or another – or often. The problem is feeling like you have it under control, that you can handle driving while texting or talking while holding your phone in one hand and the steering wheel in another. Why not? Your attention and eyes are not on the road for more than just a few seconds at a time while you type your message. What can happen in a mere second or three? Well a lot can happen – and is happening.
I have personally witnessed this on more than several occasions, most recently when traffic was at a crawl and I signaled to turn into the left lane so I could get to an entrance ramp for the Decarie expressway. The driver of a small commercial van had stopped in the left lane, seemingly to leave me more than enough space to cross over. I waved my hand in appreciation and pulled left – just as he looked up from his cellphone, hit the gas while staring somewhere into oblivion and smashed right into the left front fender of my car. The damage was not major, but we held up traffic for an hour while filling out papers.
Cyclists and pedestrians who talk and text might not seem as threatening – but they are just as guilty and just as vulnerable to the potential dangers.
On March 3rd 2016, a young man was killed after rear-ending a truck on Highway 13 in Laval. Coroner Michel Ferland’s report shows he was texting moments before the fatal accident and was instantly crushed to death when smashing into another truck which had stopped because of a stalled car ahead of it. His cellphone was found on the floor of the passenger side of the truck and a police investigation revealed he was on Facebook with his phone at 8:07 am, just five minutes before the time of the crash. And Ferland now wants the practice of texting while driving banned outright under the Criminal Code. He is suggesting that texting and driving should be considered a crime, the same way driving while drunk is.
Since 2012 there have been 60,000 tickets issued to drivers using their cellphones while they are driving. But the message is not getting through. There are still too many drivers who who use their cellphones while behind the wheel. Sometimes with deadly results.
The Couillard government is asking the federal government to examine the possible criminalization of using cellphones while driving. Heavier fines and harsher sanctions will be considered to deter offending drivers. Quebec transport minister Laurent Lessard is planning to discuss the subject with federal transport minister Marc Garneau – as the Criminal Code is Ottawa’s jurisdiction.
There was also coroner Renee Roussel’s report into the death of a pedestrian last November which recommended a complete ban on the use of cell phones while driving. She stated that ‘while hands-free systems like Bluetooth makes cellular communications safer, they are still a distraction that can contribute to accidents’. Roussel also compared the use of cellular phones to drinking while driving and said strong measures are needed. She even suggested jamming cellphone signals in vehicles to disable them.
But does that go too far? And should it not also include cyclists and pedestrians who engage in some of these dangerous actions as well – actions ranging from cyclists running red lights, hitting innocent pedestrians, ramming into cars or even into other cyclists? And they are often ‘hit and runs’. Pedestrians, who are the most vulnerable being built of flesh and bones not metal – are crawling all over the place with their eyes glued to cellphone screens, only to jump back into the real world when a car veers dangerously out of their lane to miss hitting them or screeches to a halt, honking their horn in panic. When it comes to a vehicle weighing several tons versus a 150 lb. pedestrian – the vehicle wins.
As a driver with close to 40 years of experience, I am proud to say I am not guilty of texting while driving – I realized how dangerous it was from start. But I do talk on the phone using bluetooth technology, only making or answering important calls and I often try to pull over if it is possible. Otherwise I let voicemail do the job. But I will readily admit that just talking, hands-free, takes a significant portion of my focus off the road – a distraction of only seconds that can kill.
As a pedestrian I have been guilty of texting while walking – but that ended the first time I walked face first into a pole. I now make a point of stopping and moving to the side of the sidewalk or sitting down if possible. As a cyclist, I cannot be held guilty of any of the above, as I haven’t been on a bicycle in years.
So what will it take? Do we have to wait until we injure someone or ourselves? Does it take killing someone first to make us come to our senses? For the most intelligent species on the planet we seem to be doing some very unintelligent things – literally becoming slaves to the very technology we created that is supposed to make our lives easier and better.
But a complete ban or scrambling of our devices on the roads does not sound like the answer for several reasons. First of all, a ban would not only be challenging to enforce, it would also have a very tough time passing into law, being very strongly opposed by users, to cellphone suppliers and service providers.
Cellphones are a very practical and necessary way of communication into today’s ever demanding world. They are also used in the case of accidents or emergencies when drivers or passengers need to call for help. Scrambling devices could cost people their lives, or they could miss an urgent call concerning their children or family members.
There is also GPS technology guiding drivers to their destinations in the shortest way possible – and in the case of Montreal, to avoid as much of the construction and detours literally plaguing the city.
So what is the answer? We are the answer. We have to be the intelligent beings we are made out to be and use our cellular devices in a responsible way. We have to spend less time in the virtual world and more time in the real world. It will take very little time and effort to make things safe for us all. Or has our addiction to cellphones gone too far, to the point where there is no turning back?
What do you think about all this? Do you have any practical solutions or ideas? Is banning cellphones or jamming signals in cars the answer? Should pedestrians and cyclists face stricter laws and and fines? Let us know by commenting on this article or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Bonnie Wurst – totimes.ca