Advance View: Reflect hazards in penalties for driving texters

Inebriated drivers kill people.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. They are unable to focus properly on the task of driving, they cannot see as clearly as when they are sober, and their reaction times are compromised by the alcohol coursing through their systems.

But amazingly, they are no longer the deadliest drivers on the roads in three provinces – Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – where cellphone users, particularly those who text while driving, have taken over that fatal lead spot.

And texting drivers have moved into second place with a bullet in B.C., hot on the heels of the drunk drivers.

And while their deadly drinking-driver cousins’ behaviour is chemically altered, the reasons behind the texters’ deadliness are the same: they aren’t focused on their driving, they’re not seeing the road ahead, and their attention on their electronic devices impairs their reaction time when something goes awry.

While some folks may easily delude themselves into believing that talking on a cellphone isn’t too dangerous, statistics say otherwise. In fact, it turns out that taking or making calls on hands-free devices is just as hazardous as using hand-held phones. Unfortunately, laws prohibiting only hand-held devices haven’t caught up to that reality yet.

But honestly, how stupid does a person have to be to fail to recognize the dangers of texting while driving?

A study in Virginia showed that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision than are drivers who are not distracted. Other studies have shown that there is also a significantly greater likelihood of a fatality occurring in an accident involving a distracted driver.

It’s time to bring the law up to speed with all dangerous driving. A practice that is killing as many people as drinking and driving should be met with similar penalties – through the Criminal Code of Canada.

– B.G.

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