Manitoba to toughen up on texting drivers

Almost a year after amendments were made to the Highway Traffic Act, Manitoba is ready to set a date to begin enforcing its texting while driving ban.

Answering the public call from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who asked governments around the world to act on distracted driving, Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said the province will make an announcement next month regarding the texting ban.

“One thing I suggest, by the way, is that people who want to continue to have access to the cell phones when driving, they had better start getting their hands-free devices or getting used to pulling over to the side of the road, because very shortly, there will not be any options. It will be the law.”

In the current proposition, a driver caught talking on a cell phone or texting while driving would face a fine of 191$.

He mentioned his government took its time because it wanted to define what texting while driving was, and that the focus was mostly on educating the population before moving forward with law enforcement.

“We want to make sure that people aren’t operating cell phones or texting devices unless it’s hands-free. Then you have to define the devices. You have to define what hands-free is and what hands-free isn’t. And we have taken the conscious decision of not rushing them in”, he said.

Ashton himself recently was involved in a car crash with a distracted driver.

“I was driving back from a meeting in Portage and my vehicle was rear-ended by another vehicle. I got out of the vehicle to exchange particulars and the woman that was driving the vehicle told me that she had been breaking up with her boyfriend and she was texting him at that point in time.”

In 2009, 93 people died on the roads of Manitoba, but there are no data yet on collisions caused by a distracted driver.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press, May 21, 2010

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