VANCOUVER, March 28, 2002 - The Humane Society of Canada is adding its voice to a call for a ban on the use of cell phones by drivers, saying that such a law would make the roads safer for animals and people. And the charity is also gearing up for a campaign called "ROADKILL" which is intended to carry out research and education to reduce accidents involving people and animals.
"Study after study shows that drivers simply can’t keep their eyes on the road and talk at the same time," according to Al Hickey, Western Regional Director for The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). And that’s bad news for people, dogs and cats, other domestic animals and wildlife, says Hickey.
For example, a study in British Columbia reports that at least 4,768 wild animals were killed in highway accidents during 2000. The list includes mainly large animals like deer, moose, elk, coyotes, and bears as well as smaller animals like raccoons, porcupines, beavers, foxes and other wild animals.
The US based Defenders of Wildlife estimates that at least 1 million wild animals and birds are killed each day on America's highways. The organization also says that in the United States there are over 4 million miles of roads and over 200 million vehicles making journeys of more than 5 trillion miles each year.
Although, Hickey is not aware of any specific studies linking cell phone use to an increase in collisions between cars and animals, he says his organization intends to begin carrying out research right across the country as a part of new public awareness campaign called: "ROADKILL". The campaign has four primary objectives:
- To research the link between cell phone use by drivers and collisions with dogs, cats, other domestic animals and wildlife (for example in Florida, there are only 30 remaining black panthers and each year several animals are killed on highways that run through their habitat)
- To research the impact of highways and roadways in fragmenting wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors and incorporate the findings as a part of environmental impact assessments before any new roadways and highways are constructed (for tens of thousands of years, wildlife and their young have followed wildlife corridors and then all of sudden, there is a highway either obliterating or bisecting their trails)
- To research ways to reduce collisions between vehicles and animals (to date studies in North America and Europe have tried using wildlife crossing signs, ultrasonic whistles mounted on cars, wolf urine sprinkled near crossings, reflectors along the side of the road, cameras, fences and underpasses - however, so far, it appears that exercising careful driving habits is the best way to prevent collisions between cars and animals)
- To remind drivers that if they are involved in a collision with an animal that they are required by law to stop and render emergency aid or assistance (while provincial law in Newfoundland & Labrador is the only law that specifically refers to render aid or assistance to animal struck by a car, every other jurisdiction requires that if a driver is involved in an accident they must stop and provide assistance - and when this involves an animal, could include calling the local humane society, wildlife rescue agency, police or fish and game agency - people who are not familiar with handling animals should exercise extreme caution in trying to handle an injured animal by themselves, and the person also needs to take precautions to ensure they are not hit by a passing car while trying to help an animal)
"However, in the meantime, while we’re gathering more data, common sense tells all of us that cell phones are not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem," says Michael O’Sullivan, Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada.
O’Sullivan, who considers himself a careful driver admits that in the past, he used his cell phone while driving - until his seven year old daughter Élan, asked him to stop before he had an accident. Now O’Sullivan pulls his vehicle off to the side of the road if he needs to use his cell phone.
"It’s not rocket science," says O’Sullivan, "trying to do too many things at once is simply an accident waiting to happen."
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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A study released earlier this week by the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation found that half of all drivers in Canada are in favour of a ban on the use of cell phones by drivers. The findings also revealed that an estimated 4.3 million drivers make or take calls on the road each week, and that about 20% of drivers admit they use their cell phones. The Foundation also reports that there are more than 10 million cell phones activated for use in Canada.
For example, a 1997 study by Dr. Don Redelmeier of the University of Toronto was published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that drivers talking on a cell phone were four times more likely to be at risk from having an accident.
The study also found in part that drivers were also distracted by people, objects or events (29.4%), other distractions (25.6%) and unknown (8.6%). More research is necessary to determine if this could include dogs, cats, other domestic animals and wildlife.
The Canadian Medical Association supports a ban on cell phone, however the Canadian and American Automobile Association and the Canada Safety Council are reported as being in favour of education instead of a ban.
O’Sullivan would like to see legislation introduced in Canada that would make it illegal for people to use cellphones while driving.
"A British study released earlier this week, found that drivers who talk on cell phones are more dangerous than drunk drivers. And the same study found that even hands-free cell phones were distractions," he said.
At least 14 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom, have banned drivers from using cellphones.
New York State became the first in the U.S. to ban the use of handheld cell phones by drivers with a law that came into effect on 1st November 2001. First time offenders face a $100 US fine, a second conviction costs $200 US and after that each additional violation costs $500 US. At least 39 more states are considering bans.
In Canada, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ontario have all considered bans. MP Bill Blaikie introduced a private member’s bill in February of this year that would make it a crime to use a cell phone while driving, except in cases of an emergency.