Manitoba and Saskatchewan look to ban texting while driving

Increasing evidence regarding the dangers of distracted driving has a number of provinces considering legislation to ban texting and talking on held-held devices while driving.

Manitoba passed legislation this summer and Saskatchewan recently announced it is looking to pass similar legislation this fall.

Other provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have already passed legislation prohibiting the use of hand-helds while driving. British Columbia has recently announced that it too is looking to ban the use of hand-helds while driving.

Premier Brad Wall announced on Sept. 1 that the Saskatchewan government is interested in legislation that will ban texting and talking on a hand-held device while driving.

“There are compelling, true-life tragedies of, especially, young people, who weren’t drinking and driving, but whose lives were lost because of texting and driving,” Wall told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix earlier this month.

“We would be looking at a ban on texting and cell use, but not on hands-free (phones). We’re not going to ban cell use completely but, certainly we want to encourage hands-free, which most people so know, I think, as a matter of course when they’re driving.”

Tony Playter, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) media relations manager, said that SGI looks to educate drivers on the dangers of driving while distracted.

“The use of cell phones and texting is rapidly increasing [and] cause driver distraction but there are other distractions. We find people reading, applying make-up, eating or drinking, looking at external objects. Those all pose collision risks,” said Playter.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux announced on Sept. 21 the beginning of a public awareness campaign, called “See the Signs.”

“We can’t say enough how important it is to pay full attention while driving a vehicle, and bringing in the new law will address the issue of a major distraction, so motorists can focus on what matters most — the road,” said Lemieux in a provincial news release today.

The amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, which will be proclaimed into law within the first half of 2010, would ban handheld cell phone use and texting while driving. It would also prohibit smoking in a vehicle when child under the age of 16 is present.

Statistics provided by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation show that drivers who text while driving are 23 per cent more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision. The statistics also show that drivers who use a cell phone are four times more likely to be a car accident serious enough to injure themselves.

When legislation in Manitoba is enforced, a fine of $190.80 would be issued for talking or texting with a handheld device.

Samantha Charran, public relations coordinator Canadian Automobile Association said that CAA is pleased Manitoba has moved forward with legislation concerning distracted driving.

“For a long, long time, CAA has called for legislation that asks people not to be distracted drivers. Cell phones and texting, that’s just part of distracted driving,” said Charran.

“We’re happy that Manitoba is moving forward with banning talking on cell phones in cars and banning texting but we still believe that distracted driving on a whole still needs to be looked at.”