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When behind the wheel, focus on driving: OPP

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From Monday, March 11 through Sunday, March 17, officers with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be participating in the March Break Distracted Driving Campaign.

This campaign will be conducted by officers with the OPP throughout the entire province including officers within the Rainy River District.

During this campaign officers will be specifically looking for persons driving while distracted. Although officers patrol our highways all year and look for distracted driving, this annual OPP initiative is used to highlight this issue within our communities.

Distracted driving remains a leading cause of fatalities on our highways. In 2018, 55 people were killed in crashes caused by inattentive and distracted drivers on OPP patrolled roads.

Last year's distracted driving campaign resulted in 2,470 distraction related charges within the province, 24 of those were in the Northwest Region.

Many drivers are aware that driving while using a hand held communication or entertainment device is an offence, but also under section 78 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) it is an offence to drive with a screen visible to the driver.

This could include watching a movie on a laptop or tablet while driving.

Offences under section 78 HTA have increased to a total payable amount of $615 and upon conviction there is a three day licence suspension imposed on the driver.

This licence suspension increases to seven days on the second conviction, and 30 days for the third.

Ontario's distracted driving laws are not limited to the offences already mentioned but also drivers need to be aware that if they are driving while being distracted they could also be charged for careless driving under section 130 HTA.

This could include anything which draws a driver's attention away from their driving. Examples of this could include adjusting a vehicle's GPS or stereo, eating and drinking, self-grooming, or tending to children while behind the wheel.

Under section 130 HTA drivers could be arrested, face fines up to $2,000, and have their licence suspended for up to two years.

If that distraction leads to injuries or death drivers could face charges under the HTA and Criminal Code with penalties including large fines, jail time, and lengthy driver's licence suspensions.

Drivers are reminded that for their safety and the safety of others their focus needs to be on driving when behind the wheel.

It is a focus of the OPP through education and enforcement to continue to keep Ontario roads safe.

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