Regina traffic officer busting more drivers watching videos — including porn

The number of people watching TV behind the wheel seems to be increasing, according to an officer in the Regina police traffic department who handed out more than 1,100 distracted driving tickets last year.

Regina Police Service Const. Michael Seel says he caught four drivers watching videos last Saturday night alone. 

The first was watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders game right in front of his steering wheel. The others were watching YouTube on phones mounted to their dashboards. 

"I've been behind people and I actually thought they're impaired because their vehicle keeps turning … and coming back," Seel said, "because they're looking down, and your hands automatically go that way."

Seel said one of the most memorable tickets he handed out was to a man who was watching porn on his phone, which the constable noticed when he pulled up beside the driver at a red light.

"That was quite shocking. I had to do a double-take because I saw the phone on, and then I kind of registered what was on the phone," said Seel.

"He denied being on his phone and I was trying to be respectful and not embarrass him, but he didn't wanna give me his licence and argued that he wasn't on his phone.

"When I told him what I saw on the phone, he very sheepishly gave me his licence — and actually, I found out that he was also suspended from driving."

The man received two tickets and his car was impounded for 30 days.

CBC

In another surprising case, Seel said he once ticketed a woman who was using three cellphones while driving.

About 1,000 tickets are handed out in Regina every month for distracted driving. Most of those are related to cellphone use. 

Last year in Saskatchewan, there were 22 fatalities and 770 injuries in which driver distraction or inattention was a factor. Distracted driving was also found to have caused 6,000 collisions in 2018.

Seel personally handed out 1,137 distracted driving tickets last year. At the beginning of his shift on Oct. 11, he was only eight tickets away from beating that record. 

He once ticketed 27 drivers using their phones during a single shift on which Tyler McMurchy, Saskatchewan Government Insurance's manager of media relations, had joined him for a ride-along.

Provincial legislation says drivers are not allowed to hold, use, manipulate or view a handheld electronic device.

A ticket for using your phone while driving will cost you $280 and four points off your licence. A second cellphone ticket within 12 months of the first will earn you a second $280 ticket and another four demerits on your licence, and result in your vehicle being impounded.

Dropping down 10 points into the "penalty zone" means you will face an additional fine of $500 for each conviction.

Joe Hargrave, the government minister responsible for SGI, indicated that the government is looking at stronger distracted driving penalties when he released his annual report in July. 

While experienced drivers are allowed to use voice-activated commands and can touch their phone once to trigger a virtual assistant or skip a song, learner and novice drivers are not allowed to use their phone at all.

But SGI's McMurchy says phone use is "a really bad idea when you're operating a motor vehicle."

"There are so many other things that require attention. You're steering, you're navigating, you're watching for oncoming traffic," he said. 

"There are a lot of things that demand your attention. You shouldn't add to it by messing around with your phone."