CNS VANCOUVER SUN
Drivers still on cell phones, survey says.
The two-year-old law that baned cellphone use while driving have been ineffective in changing driving habits in Manitoba, according to a CAA survey.
"What we are seeing in the survey is that behaviours haven’t changed, people aren’t putting down their phones," said Liz Peters, public and government affairs manager for CAA Manitoba.
The survey asked 5,600 Manitobans about their personal experiences and perceptions of cellphone use by Manitoba motorists. Nearly all of the respondents said they still see motorists talking or texting while driving, which is the same result obtained by a comparable survey done the previous year.
There is one significant difference between the two studies — about 50 per cent of respondents in the 2011 survey believed laws prohibiting cellphone use while driving made roads safer, while only 26 per cent in the 2012 survey believe they do.
"People aren’t feeling safer because of the legislation," Peters said.
"We think there needs to be a stronger deterrent. The $199 fine hasn’t been enough, it seems, to make people put down the phone. They aren’t fearful enough that if they get caught it’s going to cost them a lot, and I’m not just talking about dollars."
Around 66 per cent of respondents believe demerits should be added in addition to the fine and 79 per cent think a zero tolerance approach should apply to new drivers caught texting or using a cellphone behind the wheel.
Cpl. Miles Hiebert of the RCMP said distracted drivers are an issue on Manitoba roads, but it can be difficult to catch people using their cellphones.
"If a car is driving past a stationary police vehicle at 100 km/h, it could be difficult to see if they are using a cellphone while they are driving," Hiebert said.
Staff Sgt. Gay Jones from the Brandon Police Service said it can also be difficult for the BPS to spot cellphone use by drivers.
"It is not the easiest violation for us to detect unless they have it up to their ear. When someone is texting, the person may be looking down at something else — it might not be a cellphone, and we can’t make that determination if we don’t see the device," Jones said.
More than 80 per cent of respondents believe it is unlikely offenders will be caught, an increase of 15 per cent since the 2011 survey.
A large component of the RCMP’s enforcement strategy is education.
"We found that checkstops are a fairly effective tool to remind people that cellphone use while driving is illegal and dangerous. We also have some of our traffic services people going to high schools and talking to them," Hiebert said.
Jones said that education is crucial to help make Brandon’s roads safer from distracted drivers.
"There was a program last year, some people called it a blitz, and people actually thought it was silly that we were trying to enforce the legislation," Jones said.
"It comes down to whether or not you pay attention to the legislative changes. The people that are conscious as to why these changes have been put in place and who know what the penalty is, they may think (the law) is a deterrent."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 13, 2012