Two years ago today (Oct 26th) Ontario passed its “distracted driving law” which allows people to be fined up to $500 for texting or talking on a cell phone while driving (or at least trying to drive). I thought it was a great idea at the time: one of my biggest personal peeves is seeing people trying to drive and chatting on the phone. Because they really don’t “drive”, in any sense of the word: in order to compensate for their “habit”, they drive slow and try to leave lots of room, irritating those around them inviting others to driving dangerously. I’ve seen drivers on cell phones cut others off, meander across lanes, and generally drive dangerously. Indeed, according to a study at the University of Utah (2006), “motorists who talk on handheld or hands-free cellular phones are as impaired as drunken drivers.”
So I was very happy to hear that we were implementing the law, now two years old. Yet in spite of that law, the practice is still abused. Apparently most of us see people driving while using a cell phone, while less than a fifth of us admit to doing it (680 News). This probably has something to do with inconsistent (or nonexistent) applications of fines. After all, our Mayor, Rob Ford, is not only known to be an avid cell phone user while driving, but has been accused of “giving the finger” to those who express disapproval of his breaking the law (The Star: Jul 25, 2001). He laughed and cut off the interview when asked about it on camera (CP24: Jul 26, 2011), illustrating his obvious lack of respect for the law. Indeed, even though he admitted to the crime, charges were not laid. “Mayor Rob Ford admitted to driving while holding his cellphone, but no charges will be laid, Toronto police said Wednesday…“We are confident in saying the mayor has been reminded of the safety concerns and no further action will be taken” (The Star: Jul 27, 2011).
Yeah, right. What I’m “confident in saying” is that Mr. Ford is free to do something the rest of us are not. He was accused (again) a few weeks ago, and did not deny the allegations (Globe and Mail: Oct 4, 2011). That’s the kind of Toronto he’s apparently trying build: one where there might be laws and rules in place to maintain the public good: but which, if you’re doing something important enough (like trying to close our libraries to save taxpayer dollars: Geographer’s Corner), you don’t really have to bother following. Mr. Ford is good at trying to adjust the facts to meet his agenda. At least as long as no-one of power notices. The rest of us don’t count.