© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Minister Robert Vessey, left, and Amanda Dean, vice president Atlantic Insurance Bureau of Canada, were promoting the Leave the Phone Alone campaign. Islanders are encouraged to pledge not use their mobile devices while driving.
In 2013, 215 people were fined for using handheld devices, down from 258 the year before
"No phone call or text is worth risking your life or someone else's," Transportation and Infrastructure Minster Robert Vessey said to a cafeteria full of students at Charlottetown Rural High School.
Vessey and a team of speakers showed up to the school Monday to promote safe driving and discourage the use of cellphones behind the wheel.
This is the second year of the "Leave the Phone Alone" campaign on P.E.I., where a team of advocates including Vessey, radio hosts from Hot 105.5 and Amanda Dean, vice-president of the Insurance Board of Atlantic Canada, are making their way across the province to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
Last year's campaign saw 4,500 students sign an online pledge promising not to use a mobile device while driving.
"Community-based initiatives are often the most effective, and it is clear that communities throughout this province have taken ownership of this program," said Dean.
"It's hard to believe, but just a short time ago we were having similar conversations around wearing a seatbelt and the perils of drinking and driving," she said, pointing out that the delay in a distracted driver's reaction time is equivalent to that of a driver with an blood alcohol level of 0.08.
Dean also said that drivers who text behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to crash than those who don't.
Driving while using a mobile device was made illegal across the province in 2010. Penalties for those caught doing so can result in a $400 fine with three demerit points.
Dean said that since the campaign was launched in 2013, there has been a 17 per cent decrease in convictions of distracted driving, falling to 215 from 258 the year before.
"If you absolutely need to call or respond to someone, do it when you're safely pulled over off the road," Vessey advised. "It's not the end of the world if you have to wait a few seconds to pull over. Not waiting could mean the end of the world for someone you may love."