Penalties for distracted driving will soon become more severe in Manitoba with the addition of driver's licence suspensions. Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says an amendment was approved by the legislature in June. He explains the new penalties.
"If you are caught distracted driving, you will get a 3-day suspension and with that comes all the normal demerits that you would get if you were caught drinking and driving. The 3-day suspension will kick in the next midnight. So, we allow you to drive your vehicle home because it's not like you're incapable. So, you take your vehicle home and at that time you will have signed on your ticket that you understand you have a 3-day suspension. If you're caught a second time, it will be a 7-day suspension."
He says staff are now finalizing the guidelines which will be followed by a public information campaign before police begin to enforce the new measures sometime within the next six months.
Schuler notes statistics from Manitoba Public Insurance in 2016 show more than 11,000 accidents were caused by distracted driving. By comparison, 145 accidents were caused by impaired driving. Also that year, 38 people died as the result of impaired driving and 29 due to distracted driving. Schuler says it is time to deal with both offences in the same way.
"We've found now that distracted driving is killing as many people as drinking and driving. We also find that we're having an exponential growth in accidents due to distracted driving. We have a serious problem so we have to do something and this is a cross-the-country initiative that is taking place. This is serious and we all have to take it seriously."
Below: Statistics for 2016 from Manitoba Public Insurance.