SGI has a simple message to keep people safe on Saskatchewan roads and highways: “don’t drive distracted.”
Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) says an average of 877 people are injured each year in collisions involving distracted driving.
That represents one out of every five injuries — more than are injured in impaired driving and speeding collisions combined, according to SGI.
Distracted driving also results in an average of 26 deaths each year.
“There’s no phone call, there’s no text, there’s no Instagram story or message on Snap … that’s worth potentially injuring or killing somebody,” said SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re at a red light, (if) you’re stopped for a train. If you’re in a driving lane, you’re in care and control of that vehicle, you need to keep that phone out of your hand.”
Saskatoon police Staff Sgt. Patrick Barbar said officers in the city issue just under 3,000 tickets yearly for distracted driving.
He said in one instance, a driver missed seeing a “very obvious police vehicle,” the force’s impaired mobile testing van, which has a large picture of the side of a police officer.
“This van was able to pull up next to a driver who was driving while texting at the traffic light,” Barbar said.
“And it’s not until the siren was activated that that driver was aware that there was a police vehicle there.”
Police forces across the province are focusing on distracted driving for SGI’s October traffic safety spotlight.
Holding, using, manipulating or viewing a handheld cellphone while behind the wheel is distracted driving under Saskatchewan laws.
However, it is not a penalty for experienced drivers to use the hands-free functions on mounted devices through voice commands or one-touch.
SGI said distracted driving is not limited to cellphones — it also includes lighting cigarettes, eating, grooming and rummaging around in gloveboxes or purses.
“Just stay off your phone and keep that phone out of your hand and you will avoid what is very likely distracted driving,” McMurchy said.
“You should be focused on the road and the other people on it because you could hurt yourself, you could hurt others very easily.
“It just takes a couple of seconds of inattention to cause a very severe accident.”
Offenders caught driving while distracted, or driving without due care and attention face a fine of $580 along with four demerit points.
Repeat offenders face higher fines. A second offence within a year results in a $1,400 ticket and it goes up to $2,100 for a third offence. Vehicles are seized for seven days.
In August, SGI said there were 799 distracted driving offences in the province, 683 of which were for using a cellphone while driving.