Don’t be driven to distraction


Manitoba drivers are not putting down their hand-held devices, according to a recent Manitoba Public Insurance survey.  
In an effort to reduce distracted-driving collisions, Manitoba Public Insurance announced today it is providing $120,000 in funding to police agencies  — Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP and Brandon Police Service — to conduct targeted, dedicated enforcement towards distracted drivers during the month of February.
“Manitoba Public Insurance’s objective is to help raise awareness that if drivers choose to drive while using a handheld device, there are consequences,” said Ted Hlynsky, vice-president of Claims Control & Safety Operations with Manitoba Public Insurance.
“There’s a human and economic cost associated with distracted driving crashes,” said Hlynsky. “A person’s life can dramatically change forever due to driving while distracted. The corporation also pays out millions of dollars in benefits as the direct result of crashes caused by a distracted driver.
“A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a collision than a non-texting driver,” he added.
Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act was amended in July 2010 to prohibit drivers from using any hand-operated electronic device (including cellphones) while driving. Drivers caught doing so by police will receive a ticket of $199.80. 
Manitoba law does allow for the use of hand-free devices, which are used by REALTORS®.
“The RCMP is committed to the safety of Manitobans on our province’s roadways,” said Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, commanding officer of RCMP “D” Division. 
“Through monitoring, education, and enforcement, we are working to reduce the number of collisions and deaths caused by distracted drivers,” he added.
“Research clearly indicates that using hand-operated electronic devices and driving don’t mix,” said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill, who noted nearly 5,000 provincial offence notices for illegally using a handheld electronic device while driving have been issued by his officers since July 15, 2010.
“Like drinking and driving, speeding and not wearing your seatbelt, the illegal use of hand operated electronic devices while driving is dangerous, not socially acceptable or acceptable on any level,” said McCaskill.
“The Winnipeg Police will continue to work with our traffic safety partners to encourage safe and responsible driving habits and will aggressively enforce the illegal use of hand held electronic devices by individuals who are driving.”
Hlynsky said nearly 40 per cent of respondents admitted to using a handheld device while driving. 
A total of 800 Manitobans participated in the Manitoba Public Insurance commissioned poll.
“Many people reported using their cellphone at least once in the last 10 times they drove,” said Hlynsky. “They explained the purpose of their call was either work or speaking with a family member. A total of eight-in-10 respondents acknowledged using a hand-held cellphone is a serious problem.”
Nine in 10 Manitobans think it is likely for a driver to get into an accident when using a hand-held cellphone while driving, including 59 per cent who say it is very likely.
As age increases, so does apparent concern for drivers using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Younger adults are the least likely to rate this as a very serious problem compared to older adults.
“For safety sake, drivers should let their calls go to voice mail, and when it comes to texting and driving — it can wait,” said Hlynsky.