The majority of us have our lives stored on our cell phones. Our music, our email, our contacts, our photos, grocery lists, access to the internet.. everything we need is at our fingertips. We are so connected by technology these days that it has become to norm to communicate and conduct much of our days happenings electronically. For me personally its marvelous. The convenience of using SMS is probably my most favourite part having a cell phone, but never while I'm driving. The stories we've heard about texting and driving are horrific. Studies show that texting is more dangerous than drunk driving and while driving intoxicated is not at all acceptable either it is eye opening to read some of the comparison reports. Car And Driver conducted a study on the subject; the results can be found here. So we know this (or should know this) which makes hands free calling the lesser of the two evils when we need to communicate. It's legal and less of a distraction than many of the other reasons why we shift our eyes from the road here and there. We drink our coffee on our commute, change radio stations, adjust the heat and a/c, glance at our GPS screen while following the directions, look at the clock ..we've all done it. We've all taken our eyes or one hand away from the wheel for a split second to do all of these things ..but does it make us irresponsible drivers?? We're not drunk. We're not texting. We don't get penalized for it.
A friend of mine, a law abiding citizen who works in a field where safety and security are of the utmost importance got a $155 ticket for using a handheld device while driving. She was on the 400 near Vaughan last Thursday after work and had to take a call on her Hands Free Headset. To hang up the call she lifted her iPhone from the cup holder, glanced down to press 'END' and placed it back in the cup holder. Upon being issued the ticket she showed the officer her ear piece, explained she had been using her device hands free and that this ticket was not justified. His response was simply 'fight it in court'.. She asked what the alternative to doing what she did was and he told her she should have 'pulled over to the shoulder to end the call' ..!
So.. let's look at this, Ontario. That officer told her the lawful way to end her handsfree conversation would have been to weave across three lanes of highway traffic on the 400, during bumper to bumper rush hour chaos, to pull onto the shoulder where she risks not only her life but everyone around her as well, to hit 'END' on her iPhone. This Ontario Provincial Police Officer coached her to do that! And expects her to do that from now on to avoid getting a ticket. His advice is to put herself and everyone on the road around her in more danger than what it would take to simply push the end call button on her phone ..does that make any sense at all??! Through the process of her spreading the word to friends and family to protect them from also being slapped with a hefty fine, conversations are being generated about the fact that this law has become a huge money grab for police.
I've heard too many stories now where it seems to be just that. Another friend of mine was at a drive through window, waiting for his order, car completely stopped, and picked up his phone to respond to a text he had ignored on the road for the purpose of safety and the law. A cop who was dining in his cruiser in that same parking lot witnessed his actions. As my friend pulled away from the window, phone set down already, the cop gave him a ticket. Money grab. Someone else I know was at a red light. A reminder alert came up on her phone that was in her cup holder. She lifted it to hit snooze, put it down and got a ticket. Money grab. A coworker of mine was also at a red light when he got his $155 ding by lifting his phone out of the holder to skip the song that was playing. No different than changing the song on our car's CD player. Money grab. These people clearly were not texting while driving. They were not making a call without using a hands free set. And they were not emailing. They weren't doing anything differently than what we do everyday in our vehicles and have been doing for decades. I understand the importance of enforcing a law that prevents people from texting or emailing while driving. It's been put in place as a result of a series of sad and unfortunate events worldwide. That law is necessary. However it's too grey and some officers might be taking it too far. Is it a money grab? So they can hit quotas quickly and be recognized among their colleagues? They do it too. One of our dear friends is a police officer; I've peeked inside the window of her cruiser before. They have all kinds of little buttons, computers, radios and distractions in those cars; more than the average vehicle. They are just as guilty as anyone else for taking a hand off the wheel here and there. In fact I've witnessed an officer with her iPhone at her ear while travelling down the QEW ..and if I'd have had a passenger with me I would have pulled mine out and snapped a photo as we passed by!! Where's her penalty? Or in this province do we just turn a blind eye when it's a law enforcer breaking the law? ..oh wait, thats a whole other topic. Let's not go there.
So Ontario drivers, going forward be sure to do as they say and not as they do. Be sure to weave across the busy lanes of rush hour traffic to end your hands free call just as the Ontario Provincial Police Officer advised my friend she should have done. Do not change the music in your car, even at a red light unless you are listening to a CD, a tape, an 8 track, satellite or the regular radio stations. Those are all ok and you will not be fined for doing so. But if your music is stored on your iPhone then you'll feel the sting of a ticket. Also, if your phone alarm is going off, you must listen to the noise until you can pull over however unsafe that may be to do to make it stop. Unless of course you can't pull over. Then you may lose your mind from the distracting alarm sounding through your brain over and over and over again, causing road rage, which then causes an accident because you're so pissed off you just want to ram into the guy driving beside you to try to get him out of the way so you can get over to the side of the road and stop that irritating noise. Because a quick push of one button on your handheld device is against the law in our province. A little exaggerated I know, however if you do find yourself in a similar situation as those mentioned above, in all seriousness you'd better NOT (seriously, do NOT!) press that one button ..or you'll be out a hefty hundred and fifty bucks ;) Drive safe everyone!