Nine police agencies across the province — including Brandon's — are partnering with Manitoba Public Insurance to crack down on drivers who continue to use hand-held electronic devices.
The enforcement campaign is a joint initiative between Manitoba Public Insurance and the RCMP, Winnipeg Police Service and Brandon Police Service, as well as police agencies in Winkler, Morden, Altona, Rivers, Ste. Anne and Dakota Ojibway. The crackdown is timed to happen along with a public awareness campaign.
"This partnership is intended to allow enhanced enforcement by all police agencies throughout Manitoba during the month of November," said MaryAnn Kempe, vice-president, Community & Corporate Relations, Manitoba Public Insurance.
"Reducing fatalities on our roadways is accomplished by the proactive combination of education, awareness and law enforcement," said MaryAnn Kempe, an MPI vice-president.
"The rate of fatal collisions in Manitoba has been steadily decreasing over the past few years," she said, but about 25 road deaths each year in the province are attributed to distracted driving, according to Manitoba Public Insurance claims data.
There was an average of 87 fatal collisions annually from 2007-11, compared to an average of 95 from 2002-06, 97 from 1997-2001 and 99 from 1992-96.
MPI also said that it is partering with driving schools to include more information about distracted driving to high school students taking driver education. About 12,000 Manitoba teens enroll in the program every year.
"Teenagers are avid users of hand-operated electronic devices such as cell phones and that’s why it’s extremely important to address this particular audience," Kempe said.
Since 2010, Manitoba law has prohibited drivers from using hand-operated electronic devices (including cell phones) while driving. Drivers caught doing so by police will receive a ticket of nearly $200. On Aug. 1, the provincial government added to the penalty, giving two demerits to those convicted of using a hand-held electronic device while driving.
"Even one fatality is one too many," said Attorney General Andrew Swan, minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance. "That’s why our government is focused on keeping up education and enforcement efforts to continue making our roads safer."