Emergency services have a message for drivers everywhere: leave the phone alone.
A new program in Moose Jaw is trying to keep young drivers from forming bad driving habits by warning them about the dangers of distracted driving.
Moose Jaw’s fire and police services showed Grade 11 and 12 students at Vanier Collegiate powerful videos and shared stories about dealing with distracted driving tragedies.
“It’s probably one of the toughest parts of being a law enforcement officer, is having to tell somebody they’ve lost a loved one,” Moose Jaw RCMP Sgt. Tim Schwartz said. “Because if it is a cell phone, it’s something that could have waited. It’s devastating,”
“There’s always been distracted driving, but there hasn’t been a lot of awareness happening,” Cathie Bassett, Moose Jaw Fire Department’s public education officer said. “I believe education is the key for every risk and lowering it.”
Bassett hopes teaching students about the dangers of distracted driving will help the rest of Saskatchewan drivers as well.
“Hopefully they’ll teach their parents something too,” she said. “I hope they pledge to leave the phone alone. I hope it makes them realize what they’re doing is a risk not only to themselves but the friends they have in the car and the other people on the street.
“It’s not worth it. Staying connected can disconnect you. For life,” Bassett said.
According to SGI, distracted drivers under the age of 20 caused more than 800 collisions in 2015.
“I think that some of the numbers are starting to rival impaired driving stats. Quite honestly, it’s a bit of a hidden one too. When you might have somebody go through a stop sign or go through a red light, and our investigation leads to that conclusion, but what really caused them to go through that stop sign or red light? Maybe it was they were busy on their phone,” Moose Jaw Police Cpl. Kevin Pilsworth said.
Pilsworth said people also need to be aware that distracted driving is more than just using a cell phone.
“It’s paying attention to the radio for the two or three seconds when it really counts. It’s not holding onto the steering wheel with both hands while trying to eat your lunch,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure people really fully get how important it is to have your attention focused on what you’re doing. You’re driving around with a 2 to 3,000 pound vehicle that can cause a lot of damage.”
Those who are caught distracted driving will face a $280 fine and four demerit points on their licence. Repeat offenders could find their vehicle impounded.
Students said the presentation was powerful and would change their driving habits.
“I’m going to think twice about looking down to change a song or eating food on the way to practice,” Grade 12 student Dylan Jones said. “It’s really going to change the way I behave in the car.”
“I think that we all kind of fall guilty to distracted driving and we see it in everybody around us,” Grade 12 student Carly Firth said. “And I just think that could change and we could be the ones to do that.”