Territory asks public if distracted driving is a problem

When it comes to distracted driving laws, the Yukon can't even see the taillights of other provinces. Most Canadian jurisdictions and many US states have banned the use of handheld devices while driving.

When it comes to distracted driving laws, the Yukon can’t even see the taillights of other provinces.

Most Canadian jurisdictions and many US states have banned the use of handheld devices while driving.

Last fall, British Columbia made changes to its Motor Vehicle Act. Drivers can no longer hold or operate devices such as cellphones, MP3 players or GPS systems.

Before the law was implemented, CHEK News in Victoria, BC, aired a video of a woman it caught driving with her knees while texting. She passed the spot where a 26-year-old man died earlier that year after he got in a crash while texting.

Reaching for something in the car while driving makes you nine times more likely to crash, according to the Yukon’s Highway and Public Works website.

Applying makeup makes you three times more likely to crash.

And if you’re paying attention to things outside the vehicle, you are 3.7 times more likely to get in an accident.

Clearly driving while distracted is dangerous, but before the territory implements any laws it’s looking for the public’s opinion.

Highways and Public Works is sending Yukoners a voluntary survey asking questions like, “Should police have the authority to inspect electronic devices found in a vehicle to see if they were being used by a driver prior to a crash?”

Also, respondents are asked which distractions they believe are unacceptable. The checklist includes talking on a cellphone, using a laptop computer or using an electronic gaming device. Then it asks if police should be able to charge drivers for these activities.

Other provinces allow emergency workers, such as police, paramedics and firefighters, to use electronic devices while driving. Participants can check off which other workers among bus drivers, taxi drivers and commercial truck drivers, if any, should be able to use gadgets as well.

A motion was passed in the legislature last year to get public input before any changes are made to the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act, said Vern Janz, director of transport services.

“I don’t think implementing new legislation without consultation is a good idea.”

Depending on the results, laws banning handheld devices, similar to those in other provinces, may be considered.

“The results will be used for proposing some options for drafting and requesting some direction on which flavours of legislation we may go ahead with, or may not go ahead with,” said Janz.

The survey arrived or will arrive in mailboxes this week. The deadline for response is August 13.

There’s no word on whether completing a survey while driving is considered a distraction.

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at larissaj@yukon-news.com