Coroner wants tougher penalties for cell phone use while driving
A Quebec coroner is recommending authorities clamp down on drivers who continue to text or talk on cell phones while driving.
Yvon Garneau says drivers simply aren't getting the message about the dangers of cell phone use behind the wheel, and is now recommending drivers who get caught get dinged with nine demerit points.
The coroner's report comes in the wake of an accident that happened last October 25th in the town of St-Guillaume in central Quebec which killed two people, one of which was an employee with the Transport ministry.
It was a head-on crash in a 90-kilometre zone. The driver was thought to have been on the phone when he swerved into oncoming traffic, causing the crash.
Lots more cell phone offenders
The auto insurance board says there's been a steady increase in the number of drivers getting caught for cell phone offences, from a little more than 18,000 in 2008, to more than 56,000 in 2011.
The current penalty is a $115 fine, and 3 demerit points.
The report also points to a survey done by Leger Marketing for the auto insurance board, that suggests as many as 53 per cent of Quebecers have been on the phone while driving...and that 26 per cent of them do it often.
Garneau points to other studies that suggest cell phone users can turn their eyes off the road from anywhere from 4 to 6 seconds, and at 90 km/h, that's akin to travelling the length of a football field in 4 to 6 seconds with their eyes virtually closed.
Stiffer penalties not enough: advocate
Jean-Marie de Koninck, the founder of Operation Red Nose and longtime road safety activist, calls the recommendation 'interesting', but stresses that stiffer penalties need to be part of a larger strategy involving both governments and law enforcement.
"If you want to change the behavior of drivers, you have to do three things," de Koninck says. "you have to have an awareness campaign, you have to have tough laws, and you have to have enforcement."