By: Sara Florez
The Ontario Provincial Police are taking a different approach at cracking down on drivers who are distracted behind the wheel.
The OPP officially launched Operation Safe Trucking on Monday, a five-day campaign where officers use transport trucks while on patrol. This will allow officers to have a better visual vantage point of not only distracted truck drivers, but also motorists.
Officers in the transport trucks will be making calls to police in patrol cars so they know which drivers are distracted.
— Thomas Carrique (@OPPCommissioner) December 11, 2017
— OPP Highway Safety Division (@OPP_HSD) December 12, 2017
Just this year, the OPP responded to over 6,200 collisions involving transport trucks, which resulted in 87 fatalities.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said even though there’s been a high number of transport truck collisions this year, the blame isn’t entirely on them.
“One of the reasons why we’re focusing on this trucking campaign is to make sure everyone is sharing the road together,” Schmidt said. “It’s not always the truck drivers fault and not always the passenger vehicle’s fault.”
Long-time truck driver Jose Jaramillo for Highlight Motor Freight is relieved the OPP is finally taking the steps to tackle distracted truck drivers.
“I’ve been driving trucks for over 18 years and the amount of people distracted while behind the wheel is astonishing to me,” Jaramillo said. “The OPP will hopefully see what I see every day. Distracted drivers texting and cutting trucks like me off because they’re not paying attention to the road.”
According to a study from rates.ca, “distracted driving is now the number one risk on Canadian roads contributing to eight in 10 collisions.”
Schmidt also said the program could possibly be extended, depending on the outcome of the five-day campaign.
“We’ll see how the results come in,” he said. “And I’m sure that we will continue down the road.
“But for now the campaign is a public education campaign that we really want to raise the awareness and get the message out to all the drivers of trucks and cars that everyone needs to share the road and everyone needs to drive safely, responsibly and attentively,” he said.
Truck driver and trainer Jaro Pastrana with TR Ontario Truck Driving School, encourages his drivers to avoid getting distracted behind the wheel.
“My students know they can’t use their phones behind the wheel, however I still teach them the safety precautions they can take, for example having hands-free devices,” Pastrana said.
Pastrana also said his drivers have to take an accident prevention course before they can obtain their truck driving license.
With the winter roads in full swing, Schmidt urges drivers to take extra measures for not only tractor-trailers, but themselves.
“You certainly need to remember to slow down and drive accordingly,” Schmidt said. “It will take you longer but the conditions are what dictates that. And remember it’s not the weather conditions or the road conditions that caused crashes it’s the drivers making bad decisions in those condition.”