By Alyssa Horrobin
Windsor police are getting the word out about the dangers of distracted driving through students and social media.
Canada recently recognized National Teen Driver Safety Week, with the WPS and many local high schools participating.
In Ontario, it is against the law to operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you are driving or view display screens unrelated to your driving.
According to Constable Ceallia Gagnon with Winsdor Police Service, social media can be a way to spread awareness in a positive way even though it has potential to be a distraction on the road.
Gagnon said teens are targeted because they are young or new drivers and because she feels they will help get the word out best with the new hashtag initiative #GetHomeSafe.
“They’re going to help us to get this message across better than anyone in our area because they’re constantly using their phones,” said Gagnon.
According to statistics from Safety Village and Safe Communities Windsor, 12 per cent of drivers are youth yet they account for more than 20 per cent of all road related injuries and fatalities.
“This is an especially vulnerable age with regard to these injuries and a lot of that comes from distracted driving, drinking and driving and drugs,” said executive director Michael Lucier. “I hope they understand the impact that these decisions can have on their life. It can be just a few seconds of looking down, reaching for something, talking to someone and you could hit someone or they could hit you.”
Gagnon and Lucier visited area high schools to promote the zero-tolerance distracted driving policy by giving out #GetHomeSafe pledge cards and “positive tickets” that remind people to put off the distractions until the car is stopped.
Distracted driving is the cause of about four million motor vehicle crashes in North America every year, according to CAA.
Alberta mother Stephanie Matwie was in a car accident caused by distracted driving in 2009 and said she and the other people involved are still suffering physically and mentally from the effects of the crash.
Matwie said no matter how good you think you are as a driver you should not try and multi-task when someone else’s life is at stake.
“Put the phone down. Don’t be the reason your mom and dad cry themselves to sleep every night because they had to bury their son or daughter,” said Matwie. “Don’t be the reason someone else misses out on becoming a husband, wife, parent, doctor because you were selfish and picked up that phone.”
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers using cell phones are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash than non-distracted drivers.
“Always use hands free, make sure your eyes are always on the road,” said Gagnon. “There’s no phone call that’s more important than a life.”
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