Orillia, Ontario – Ontario drivers who have shed their cautious winter driving habits are warned that 2009 will be a year of “increased accountability,” according to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino said that he is issuing “fair warning” to motorists that the Traffic Safety Program will be in force on all of the OPP-patrolled roads and highways.
“Understandably, people are always relieved once winter is over and the warmer weather arrives,” Fantino said. “However, this is all too often reflected in the way people drive on our roads and highways. This is a particularly important time of year to be aware of our driving habits and to not let our guard down just because the snow has melted and our roads appear to be safer to drive on.”
In 2008, 322 people were killed on OPP-patrolled roads, down from 451 in 2007. From January to March 2009, the force has noted a 5.5 per cent decrease in the number of fatal collisions on these roads, compared to the same period in 2008. “We are making progress, and it seems the message is getting through to motorists,” Fantino said.
The Traffic Safety Program puts the onus on every OPP officer to make traffic safety a priority at all times, and is aimed at high-risk driving behaviours such as failure to use safety restraints, impaired driving, and aggressive driving. In 2008, the OPP laid a total of 14,751 criminal driving-related charges.
The Ontario government has also passed stiffer penalties for drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.05 to 0.08 range, effective May 1, 2009, including a three-day driver’s license suspension for the first instance, and seven- and 30-day suspensions for second and third offenses, along with mandatory alcohol education programs, remedial alcohol treatment programs, and six-month ignition interlocks.