Town tackles drivers’ texting and talking habits

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Members of Saint Lazare’s Public Security Committee kicked off an information campaign on May 26 reminding motorists of the consequences of distracted driving. (Kristina Edson)

Saint Lazare campaign includes increased policing 

Motorists traveling through Saint Lazare these days might notice one of 18 new signs that have been installed at entry points throughout the municipality as part of a public education and awareness campaign illustrating the dangers of distracted driving.

Primarily targeting people who text while driving, or talk on hand-held phones while driving, the municipal effort outlines what has become a daily problem across North America.

“There are four million accidents a year in North America directly related to cell phone use,” Saint Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo said Tuesday when the town launched the campaign.

And thought they know distracted driving is a provincial matter covered under Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, Saint Lazare’s municipal safety and security committee felt the reminder was important.

Daniel Boyer, Director of the Saint Lazare Public Security Committee, said the problem is widespread.

“We all ride in our cars every day and see someone talking on their phone or texting,”  he noted, adding that the message does not seem to be getting across to everyone.

Increased police presence

Sûreté du Québec Constable ChristianPaquet, who sits with Boyer on the eight-person committee, said police will increase their presence in the town for the duration of the public information effort.

Calling it a “daily business” to ticket drivers caught talking or texting, Cnst. Paquet said the offense comes with a $120 fine and the loss of four demerit points.

The number of demerit points was increased to four from three in April.

According to the highway safety code, a person is banned from using a handheld device that includes a telephone function while driving. Motorists have also reportedly been fined for using such things as handheld music devices with touch screens while driving. And a West Island driver made news this week when he was pulled over and ticketed for using a new Apple watch while driving.

The SAAQ says the primary sources of distracted driving come from using cellular phones to talk, text or surf the internet, as well as from adjusting a radio, GPS unit, or other handheld devices with display screens. Smoking, eating and drinking, and interacting with passengers were also listed as distraction sources. The provincial automobile insurance body says accidents causing death or bodily injury are “overrepresented” on Quebec’s roads and highways.

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