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How many times have you been stopped at a red light and looked in the rearview mirror, only to see a car gunning towards you, the oblivious driver with head down, thumbs frantically tapping out a text?

How many times have you seen a texting driver speed through a red light or a crosswalk, where pedestrians waited?

Let’s face it, no crossing guard can keep kids safe from someone who’s texting and driving and not focusing on the road — and the people — in front of them.

In this province, the fines for doing so are woefully low, though we’re not alone in that — other provinces have similarly light penalties.

In Newfoundland and Labrador you’ll pay between $100 and $400 and lose four demerit points. Ontario, on the other hand, beefed up its penalties last year; it fines texting drivers between $490 and $1,000 and dings them three demerit points. P.E.I. hands out fines of $500 to $1,200 and knocks off five demerit points.

But are stiffer fines even enough? And even if stiffer fines were effective, do we have enough police resources to spot and catch texting drivers?

In a discussion of the ramifications of texting and driving on CBC’s “Cross Country Checkup” on Sunday, Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency physician and past-president of both the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, said the practice should be criminalized, with convicted drivers facing the possibility of losing their licence, having their vehicle impounded, paying higher insurance fees, being subject to travel prohibitions or jail time.

Francescutti said some people are literally addicted to cellphone use, with their brain receiving a rush of “happy” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine with each phone interaction. Such drivers have little incentive to keep phones out of reach.

In the United States, personal injury law firms are actively marketing their services to those who have been injured by distracted drivers, and some legal experts predict the courts may soon move into new territory: allowing lawsuits against, not just drivers who text, but those who text someone they know is driving, if that driver then gets in an accident.

Dr. Louis Francescutti points out the technology already exists to prevent phones from ringing or even functioning inside vehicles, and that because governments, cellphone carriers and car manufacturers have ignored these technological options and facilitated texting and driving, they should be the subject of class-action lawsuits and bear some responsibility.

Before you text and drive, consider this: texting and driving takes your attention off the highway for a minimum of five seconds. If you’re driving at 90 kilometres an hour, you can travel the length of a football field without looking up once.

 

How many times have you seen a texting driver speed through a red light or a crosswalk, where pedestrians waited?

Let’s face it, no crossing guard can keep kids safe from someone who’s texting and driving and not focusing on the road — and the people — in front of them.

In this province, the fines for doing so are woefully low, though we’re not alone in that — other provinces have similarly light penalties.

In Newfoundland and Labrador you’ll pay between $100 and $400 and lose four demerit points. Ontario, on the other hand, beefed up its penalties last year; it fines texting drivers between $490 and $1,000 and dings them three demerit points. P.E.I. hands out fines of $500 to $1,200 and knocks off five demerit points.

But are stiffer fines even enough? And even if stiffer fines were effective, do we have enough police resources to spot and catch texting drivers?

In a discussion of the ramifications of texting and driving on CBC’s “Cross Country Checkup” on Sunday, Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency physician and past-president of both the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, said the practice should be criminalized, with convicted drivers facing the possibility of losing their licence, having their vehicle impounded, paying higher insurance fees, being subject to travel prohibitions or jail time.

Francescutti said some people are literally addicted to cellphone use, with their brain receiving a rush of “happy” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine with each phone interaction. Such drivers have little incentive to keep phones out of reach.

In the United States, personal injury law firms are actively marketing their services to those who have been injured by distracted drivers, and some legal experts predict the courts may soon move into new territory: allowing lawsuits against, not just drivers who text, but those who text someone they know is driving, if that driver then gets in an accident.

Dr. Louis Francescutti points out the technology already exists to prevent phones from ringing or even functioning inside vehicles, and that because governments, cellphone carriers and car manufacturers have ignored these technological options and facilitated texting and driving, they should be the subject of class-action lawsuits and bear some responsibility.

Before you text and drive, consider this: texting and driving takes your attention off the highway for a minimum of five seconds. If you’re driving at 90 kilometres an hour, you can travel the length of a football field without looking up once.

 

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