News / Ottawa

Ottawa man pushing for demerits for distracted drivers

An Ottawa man is pushing for demerit points for drivers caught using cell phones or texting, and his MPP, Lisa MacLeod, is promising to help.

“I couldn’t believe the police couldn’t give out demerits,” said Levesque, who says he saw firsthand the dangerous impact of distracted driving on Aug. 1 when an SUV rear-ended a Honda Accord that was stopped at a light on Hunt Club Road near Cleopatra Dr.

“It had a clear view for about 300 yards. There was nothing between the SUV and the Accord. The only explanation was that the driver wasn’t looking at the road,” said Levesque. Levesque said he was travelling the opposite direction and had a clear view of the crash as he stopped at the light. The SUV’s driver stepped out of her vehicle clutching a cell phone, said Levesque.

Inside the Honda were an 84-year-old woman and her 50-year-old daughter. Both received concussions in the crash, Levesque said. After speaking with police about what he saw, he said he was unnerved by the idea that his own mother-in-law or wife could have just as easily been the victims. It also bothered him that police told him that when they caught people driving and using a cell phone without a crash, the worst they could do was hand out a $155 fine. Nine Canadian jurisdictions award demerits for distracted driving, but Ontario, Nunavut, Nova Scotia and Alberta do not.

“A lot of people they just pay the fine and they don’t care. And some of them contest the tickets and the judges let them off,” said Rick Levesque.

Levesque has started a Facebook page to rally support and get people to sign a petition calling for a change in the law.

“I think it’s great that this man has taken this cause up when he wasn’t directly affected,” said MacLeod. Like Levesque, MacLeod said she wasn’t aware demerits weren’t a potential penalty. She said she would bring up the issue with Ontario PC transportation critic Frank Klees and bring the petition forward in the house when Levesque had finished collecting signatures. She also said she has a meeting with the Insurance bureau of Canada this week and would ask the bureau if they would support such a measure.

“I’m also going to ask about the rationale for not including demerits in the original legislation,” said MacLeod, noting that she had supported the Ontario government’s move to curb distracted driving.

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