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OPP kicks off distracted driving blitz

The OPP kicked off one of its largest-ever enforcement campaigns Monday to crack down on drivers who still haven’t got the message about the dangers of distracted driving.

Declaring “enough is enough,” the OPP will continue its blitz through to Sunday in the first of four one-week campaigns this year cracking down on drivers who aren’t focused on the road.

Aside from officers’ increased presence on the streets and highways looking for motorists using hand-held devices, eating, playing with the radio, rummaging through the glove compartment or applying makeup, the OPP is also putting a strong focus on education.

“People aren’t getting the message,” Sgt. Dave Woodford told CityNews.

“I see this all the time, with the coffee in their hand and they have to make a left- or right-hand turn into an intersection. Next thing you know they have to brake, the coffee comes flying at them. As a result, they could get in a collision.”

Provincial police cite a report out of Utah that concluded drivers using mobile phones are more impaired than motorists over the legal alcohol limit. A Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) report suggests texting while driving is the biggest safety concern among drivers.

To drive home just how serious of an offence authorities consider distracted driving to be, they’ve now added the offence to the OPP’s “big four,” which include aggressive driving, failure to use restraint devices and driving while impaired.

Police began enforcing distracted driving legislation in January 2010. Last year, there were 7,733 crashes due to distracted driving on OPP patrolled-roads resulting in 35 deaths, 1,040 injuries and property damage.

Last year, 8,522 drivers were charged under the distracted driving law.

Using a cell phone or device while driving can earn you a $155 fine. Other forms of distracted driving can result in a careless driving charge that can result in fines ranging from $400 to $2,000, a possible licence suspension of up to two years and/or a short jail term.