It has been one year since the province made driving while using a hand-held cell phone illegal.
After a two month grace period at the beginning of 2010, police across Saskatchewan began ticketing drivers they noticed talking or texting on cell phones while behind the wheel. And officers have been kept busy enforcing the law; in Saskatoon nearly 800 tickets were issued in the first seven months. Locally, police had issued an average of eight tickets per month, based on numbers released in October.
Drive around Moose Jaw these days and you can still look over and see people chatting away on their mobiles. Out on highways, it is much the same, except for the fact that the vehicles are barreling along at much higher speeds.
Cell phones are essential for most people's lives these days, but the new law does not ask people to give up their phones. It simply expects people to pull over to answer a call - the phone rings multiple times for a reason - or use hands-free devices, let the answering machine do its job, or simply wait a few minutes to text back the person on the other end.
The reality of the year-old law is that not everyone who uses phones while driving will get caught, and beset by the $280 fine and four demerit points from SGI. But just as with seatbelt laws and speed limits, the goal should not be to avoid getting caught, but to follow the legislation to ensure safety.
We know that distracted drivers are less safe drivers, with slower reaction times. Keeping the cell phone tucked away for a few minutes may be a large sacrifice for some, but it is a sacrifice worthy of making for oneself and others.
While in the driver's seat, put the phones away Moose Javians, before tragedy strikes your wallet, if not someone's life.