A second federal cabinet minister is now open to discussing whether to criminalize distracted driving.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says he plans to discuss what he called a “big problem” during an upcoming meeting with provincial transport ministers.
“It’s a big problem, it’s one that concerns all of us at the federal, provincial, municipal level, all passengers, everyone who drives a car,” Garneau said Friday in Montreal.
When asked directly if the government should look at criminalizing texting and driving Garneau said: “I want to get the opinions of my provincial counterparts.”
Garneau is meeting with provincial and territorial Transport Ministers on Sept. 28th in Toronto and plans to ask for their input on how best to deal with the growing problem
“I think we should be looking at it more. The number of accidents is increasing,” he added. “We need to educate people, we need to make them realize how serious it is because I don’t think they fully understand how serious it is. Driving a car is a 100 per cent full time job.”
“There is a very useful dialogue going on between the federal and provincial governments in the coming days not only in transportation but also in justice which is responsible for the Criminal Code.”
The Transport Minister said he believes some people may feel texting and driving is not dangerous because they can do two things at once.
“There is this sense that it’s alright I can still drive the car while talking, I can occasionally take my eyes off the road and push buttons while texting somebody,” he said.
WATCH: Distracted driving message not getting through to drivers. Mike Drolet reports.
Garneau’s comments echo statements by Federal Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould who responded to a question from Global News on Thursday and said she’ll also be discussing the issue during a meeting with her provincial counterparts.
“We certainly underscore and uphold the need of and the value of ensuring that we have safety on our roads,” Wilson-Raybould.
Calls are growing for stiffer penalties as the number of deaths caused by distracted drivers are now outpacing those caused by drunk drivers in some provinces.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has called on the Trudeau government to make distracted driving a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada.
“We have to consider this activity, texting while driving, as equivalent to impaired driving because, obviously, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on ahead of you while you’re doing this,” Couillard said in Gatineau, Que. Wednesday. Quebec’s transport minister said last month he wanted Garneau to examine the possibility of making it a criminal offence to use a cellphone while driving.
In Ontario, the number of distracted driving-related deaths was double those caused by impaired driving: between the start of the year and the middle of August, the Ontario Provincial Police investigated 38 deaths related to inattentive drivers compared to 19 caused by drunk driving. The RCMP in British Columbia said Thursday fatal distracted driving-related crashes are also outnumbering drunk driving crashes in the province.
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* Nick Logan and Vassy Kapelos contributed to this report.