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N.S. to broaden definition of distracted driving

By Amanda Silliker

Although it is slow coming, the government of Nova Scotia is working on expanding the definition of “distracted driving” in its Motor Vehicle Act, according to Sgt. Dave Reynolds, speaking at Safety Services Nova Scotia’s 32nd Annual Workplace Safety Conference in Halifax.

The act re-write is expected to include activities such as shaving, applying makeup, eating and sitting a dog on the driver’s lap under the distracted driving clauses, said Reynolds of the Halifax Regional Police.

Distracted driving is starting to surpass impaired driving as the number 1 killer on the road. In Halifax alone, 33 per cent of fatal accidents are due to distracted driving, while 26 per cent are alcohol-related, found a survey by Ray Oliver, an inspector with the RCMP.

The main issue the Halifax police deal with day-to-day is hand-held phones. Five years ago, about 90 per cent of the tickets issued were for people talking on the phone and only about 10 per cent for texting; now it has completely flipped and texting is the biggest problem, said Reynolds.

“I don’t know what the generation of cellphone users has created, but it’s a potential mixture for accidents, harm, death and destruction,” he said.

Since 2008, Nova Scotia has made it illegal to use hand-held phones while driving, except to dial 911. As it stands now, the fine for a first offence is $176.45, second offence is $233.95 and third offence is $348.95, but the province is taking about doubling or tripling those fines, said Reynolds. Currently, there are no demerits points issued along with these fines in N.S., but in other provinces it’s up to three demerit points.

Since the legislation has been in place, just under 7,500 fines have been issued in Halifax alone.

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