Distracted driving charges skyrocket in Sask.

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Distracted driving charges skyrocket in Sask.

Whether residents were texting, watching Netflix or even simply glancing at their phone, distracted driving charges in Regina have almost doubled since 2016.

The dramatic increase could have something to do with more targeted enforcement, which includes police officers surveying driver activity from city buses and a change to the way people are legally allowed to use cellphones.

According to the November 2017 Board of Police Commissioner's report, cellphone charges went up by nearly 90 per cent from 2016.

From January to November 2016, there were 574 charges laid. Comparatively, in the same time period during 2017, those numbers increased to 1,087.

Some feel uneasy on the road

Although more tickets are being given out, not everyone believes the roads are becoming safer.

Since 2011, CAA polled more than 600 of its prairie members. When it comes to feeling safe on the road, 83 per cent said they believe texting and driving has worsened.

"What drives home is the fact that we're not driving safely," said Christine Niemczyk, director of corporate communications and public relations with CAA Saskatchewan."We still have a concern with people who are driving distracted."

According to SGI's online database, distracted driving was the number two contributing factor to fatal collisions on Saskatchewan roads in 2016, resulting in 38 deaths.

The 2017 statistics weren't available as of Wednesday.

"We need to carry the message forward that distracted driving is not acceptable," she said.

Racking up the charges

Several laws and tactics were implemented last year to deter drivers from operating a vehicle while distracted.

Cellphone usage laws changed on Jan. 1, 2017, from "using" a cellphone while driving to "holding, viewing, using or manipulating" a handheld device while driving.

The Regina Police Traffic Safety Unit also implemented operation BusCop in 2017, with officers perched inside city buses to pinpoint inattentive drivers.

According to the most recent Board of Police Commissioner's report, the operation ran more than two dozen times and resulted in 207 charges, with 117 of those generated from cellphone use.