Ottawa police target teens with 'Leave the Phone Alone' driving campaign
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 8:01AM EST
They're the youngest drivers on the road, and the most likely to think themselves invincible.
But Ottawa police are hoping teenagers in the city can become law enforcement's new secret weapon against the dangers of using a cellphone while driving.
Police are looking to educate teenagers in Ottawa through their Leave the Phone Alone campaign, so the next generation of drivers will know how to avoid distraction when they get behind the wheel.
The initiative kicked off with awareness training at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School this week. Students who take the program's pledge are given yellow thumb bands, to show that they are against using a smartphone while driving.
"It's such an important thing to bring out to people, especially in high school," said Diliksha Fernando, a student who was handing out thumb bands on Tuesday. "Everyone's learning how to drive soon, and it's becoming more and more of a problem."
Sgt. Denis Hull said Ottawa police are trying to educate young people so they'll pass the message of safe driving on to older generations.
"We're hoping that they're going to take the message back home (and) talk to their parents, or if they're in a vehicle while their parents are actually texting or talking on the phone, they'll speak up," Hull told CTV Ottawa.
Hull added that Ottawa police have recorded 18 deaths and about 6,400 collisions in the last five years, as a result of distracted driving.
Student Abraar Elmi said texting and driving is "just not worth it at all," given the high number of collisions it causes.
"A lot of people think they can multitask and do things at the same time, but it doesn't really work," she said.
Drivers who take the Leave the Phone Alone pledge can obtain a sticker to post in their car window, to advertise their commitment to others.
Police are hoping to extend the program's reach to more schools in the Ottawa area, including elementary schools.
Leave the Phone Alone is a two-year initiative conducted by Ottawa police and their partners, including CTV.