Freeze the Keys – and the phone

What better way to discourage people from drinking and driving than giving them a chance to win a huge flatscreen TV and accompanying surround sound?

Jan. 30th marks the official beginning of The Beer Store’s province-wide campaign to promote public awareness about the consequences of drinking and driving.

Freeze The Keys is the Ontario beer supplier’s attempt at curbing alcohol-related accidents and fatalities on the roads.

The strategy coincides with the arrival of Super Bowl Sunday, which results in significantly higher-than-average beer sales and parties.

Playing on the NFL’s slogan “Fans don’t let other fans drive drunk,” Freeze The Keys is primarily targeting party hosts, asking them to take care of their guests by arranging safe rides or a place to stay overnight.

Even though Statistics Canada reports a steady decline in alcohol related accidents and fatalities since the late 1980s, drinking and driving is still prevalent enough to warrant widespread attention.   As of 2011, Ontario boasts the lowest level of offences in all of Canada.

But a new threat– distracted driving — has actually surpassed drinking and driving as a cause of accidents.

The Canadian Automobile Association reports that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident than those who are not; those talking on their phones have four to five times  higher risk.  Reaching for a moving object?  Nine times more likely.  And that object is probably a buzzing or ringing cell phone.

It is one thing for a host to take his guests’ keys, it’s quite another to literally freeze them.

But as one astute user tweets:

It’s not an option to freeze people’s phones.

Why don’t more people treat distracted driving the same way as drunk driving?

Ontario, like all Canadian provinces, has banned the use of handheld devices, but the penalty for breaking this law is a mere $155 fine (one of the lowest of all provinces) with no demerits to an offender’s record.

Distractions are a “bad habit”

Halton Regional Police Service spokesperson Sgt. Chantal Corner said  the initiative to combat distracted driving gained traction in 2009, when it was mostly educational in nature.

“Unfortunately, distracted driving – be it talking on the phone or texting – it’s a really, really bad habit for people. That ring goes … and it’s automatic, you pick it up,” she said.

Twice a year, officers launch a 4-day blitz called Project Disconnect in which the response unit dresses in regular clothes and holds cardboard signs, attempting to get close enough to drivers to catch them off-guard. The effort became known as “Hobo Cop,” Corner said.

The preference to text versus call one another has made distracted driving more dangerous because of the way phones rest in driver’s laps. Consequently, this makes it harder for police to identify violations.

“It’s a lose-lose situation,” says Corner.

Corner said the $155 fine for distracted driving is not enough of a deterrent. She compares the current situation with seatbelt usage, stating that it took many decades before the majority of people began to habitually buckle up.

She said she knows of people being charged multiple times, but they continue driving in this way.

“It’s all about change: changing habits and changing behaviour,” Corner said. “Until that happens, people aren’t really getting the message.”

What do you think? Should distracted drivers be subjected to heftier fines and demerit points, or should there be a complete overhaul of the laws governing this grey area? Let us know in the poll below.


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