ORILLIA, ON – With school buses back on the road starting Tuesday the OPP is starting a campaign to clamp down on distracted driving.

Deemed to be just as deadly as drunk driving, distracted driving punishments have been ratcheted up in the past few years but the number of incidents keep increasing too.

This Labour Day weekend the OPP will be running a Distracted Driving campaign to help underscore the importance of paying attention while driving. Police note that last year 24 pedestrians were killed in OPP jurisdictions with distracted driving being responsible in seven of the deaths.

It is a statistic that bother Acting Deputy Commissioner Alison Jevons, Provincial Commander, OPP Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

“Drivers who use their cell phone or are distracted in other ways continue to endanger the lives of people of all ages who share the road with them, be it as a driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist,” said Jevons in a release. “With the new school year set to begin, we need all motorists to make a firm commitment to keeping all forms of distraction out of the driver’s seat.”

More troubling are numbers involving crashes with school buses. The OPP investigated 304 school bus collisions last year, 76 of which were attributed to motorists or school bus drivers who were engaged in some form of distraction.

So far in 2019 there have been 158 school bus collisions with 37 linked to motorists or bus drivers not giving full attention to their driving.

Other statistics provided by the OPP includes the fact that 26 people have died so far this year due to inattentive drivers. The total number of people killed in 2018 for the same cause, 58.

A total of 180 charges were laid against drivers ignoring school bus signals in 2018.

 Drivers who pass a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing face fines of $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points. Subsequent offences carry higher fines and possible jail time.

 As of January 1, 2019 new distracted driving penalties include a fine increase up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.