Should distracted drivers have their cellphones seized?
That’s a question being batted around by Calgary’s top cop, his Ontario counterpart and Alberta’s head of transportation as they eye more extreme ways of curbing distracted driving.
On Tuesday, police Chief Rick Hanson said he was casually pitched the idea in an email from the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.
While Hanson didn’t support seizing mobile phones — noting it could jeopardize livelihoods — he suggested the idea speaks to an enforcement issue that’s become the scourge of police forces across North America.
“That’s the level of conversation that’s occurring,” Hanson said in a year-end interview with Metro. “It’s frightening the collisions that are occurring because of distracted driving.”
Earlier this month, Calgary police reported 665 crashes have involved some element of distracted driving in 2013. However, the authorities suggested that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Hanson also called distracted driving an “addiction” opposed to a habit, and renewed his call to add demerits to the existing fine for the traffic offence.
But the Chief wasn’t overtly confident that the province would make that move.
“Heck, we were the last province in the country to get distracted driving legislation with a $172 fine,” he said. “So do I think we’re going to be successful in getting demerit points any time soon?
“I’m not going to hold my breath.”
Outgoing Transportation Minister Ric McIver acknowledged changes are needed because “the vast majority of the public is ignoring” the provincial law. The ministry is exploring stiffer penalties, he continued, with cellphone seizures being far down the list of possible responses.
“I would say the number one thing we’re looking at is increased fines and the potential for demerit points,” said McIver, who is set to take over the Infrastructure portfolio.