Frustrated by the lack of progress in road safety in the city, Toronto police are launching a week of action against distracted drivers.
The campaign starts on Monday and will include officers on TTC buses and trams looking for drivers who try to use phones or other devices out of sight.
"Distracted driving continues to be a major contributor to deaths and injuries and collisions, particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists." said Toronto Mayor John Tory last week.
"It must become a thing of the past."
The effort comes just weeks after new provincial guidelines for distracted driving punishments have come into force. First-time offenders will be fined at least $ 615 and up to $ 1,000 and three points down. As of January 1 of this year, the Ministry of Transportation also has the option to suspend the driver's license for up to three days for its first conviction.
The penalties get tougher with the driver's second and third offenses, with larger fines and longer suspensions.
According to Toronto Police Supt. Scott Baptist, officials have reported increasingly seeing drivers hiding their phones on their laps while operating their vehicles. Plain-clothes police officers stationed on public transport will be especially interested in attacking these offenders, he said.
"Distracted driving is a serious community safety issue and can have tragic results," Baptist told reporters at police headquarters.
"This behavior is totally avoidable and completely unnecessary."
Parallel tag and towing campaign
Toronto police issued 9,045 tickets to drive distracted in 2018, Baptist said. He added that US studies have suggested that drivers who speak on mobile devices, be it portable or hands-free, are significantly more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who are only concentrated on the road. The chances of crashing increase considerably for text messaging and driving.
The ambient city environment is a sufficient distraction for most drivers, Baptist said.
"We all know things can happen on the road in the blink of an eye, especially in the bustling urban environment of our city," he added.
Repression of distracted drivers will be accompanied by a "zero tolerance" tag and a towing campaign targeting vehicles blocking the busy streets during rush hour.
The city has made similar efforts before, but it seems that many drivers are not getting the message, said Tory.
"It's disappointing that we have to keep making these blitzes," he said.
Police issued about 6,000 tickets for blockade in the last four years, according to Tory. More than 1,000 vehicles were towed.
"We would like to reduce those numbers," Tory told reporters.
Offenders will face a $ 150 fine, and those unfortunate enough to have their vehicles towed will need to pay from $ 200 to $ 300 more to withhold their vehicles from a police detention lot.
The tag and towing campaign will be published by February 1, Baptist said.