Breaking the habit

Justin Crann
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Distracted driving presents serious risks

In 2012, distracted driving surpassed impaired driving as the No. 1 factor in fatal collisions in Saskatchewan, and it may be poised to remain there in 2013.

“The numbers for 2013 aren’t finalized yet, so we don’t know which is the most common factor,” said Kelley Brinkworth with SGI. “But we know (distracted driving) is in the top three.”

Distracted driving essentially involves anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road. This can include texting and talking on a cellphone, as well as eating — whatever prevents a driver from operating his or her vehicle safely.

Locally, distracted driving numbers have been on the rise, according to Moose Jaw Police Service Sgt. Cliff Froehlich.

However, he’s unsure if the increase is due to a step-up in police enforcement or an actual escalation in the number of incidences.

“My assumption at the time is that we’re applying more enforcement toward this area, which is in turn driving the numbers up,” added Froehlich. “But overall, is the frequency of these offences increasing or decreasing? That’s harder to tell.”

According to SGI data, there has been an increase in incidences — or at least those that result in injuries and fatalities.

In 2012, fatalities alone increased 50 per cent over the previous year, while the number of collisions with distracted driving as a factor increased by 27.

These increases — especially with respect to severe consequences such as injury and death — are the impetus behind a push to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to more heavily enforce offences.

They were also the driving force behind the introduction of vehicle seizures for consecutive distracted driving offences, said Brinkworth.

“A change in behaviour is really required here, and it’s very difficult to change a person’s behaviour,” she said. “(Distracted driving) is a hard habit to break.”

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

Organizations: SGI, Moose Jaw Police Service

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