'Busy' Toronto mayor admits to reading while driving on highway
Published Tuesday, August 14, 2012 12:32PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2012 4:01PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he was “probably” reading during his commute into work Tuesday morning, but defended the practice, saying he was a busy man.
Ford was responding to the accusation after a photo was posted to Twitter appearing to show him reading a paper document while driving on the Gardiner Expressway, a major artery into the downtown core.
“Yeah, probably. I’m busy,” Ford said abruptly when asked about the photo at a Tuesday press conference. “I try to catch up on my work. I keep my eyes on the road, but I am a busy man.”
Drivers caught using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving are subject to a $155 fine.
Toronto police’s Traffic Services said on Tuesday there was no specific fine for holding a piece of paper in your hand while driving, as it’s similar to holding a cup of coffee or a sandwich.
However, Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe said police don’t condone reading while driving.
And, he added, a driver can be charged with careless driving if they are not acting in a manner that shows care and control of the vehicle.
A comment from the Toronto Police Service Facebook account, made by police Sgt. Tim Burrows, also suggests that it’s time for Ford to consider getting a driver.
“Finally, on behalf of all the citizens of Toronto that value road safety, Mr. Mayor... please get a driver,” reads the comment, which is attributed to Burrows. “It is obvious that you are busy enough to require one and no amount of money you are saving by not having one is worth the life of one of your citizens.”
Earlier this year, Toronto police charged nearly 10,000 drivers with distracted driving during a week-long safety blitz.
When asked if he saw a problem with reading while driving, Ford reasserted that he was a busy man.
“It is ridiculous questions sometimes, seriously,” he said.
The picture was posted by Twitter user @RyanGHaughton at around 11 a.m. In a subsequent tweet, the user said the picture was taken at around 10 a.m. while traffic was moving at about 70 km/h near the Gardiner’s Jameson Avenue exit.
The photo and subsequent tweets were later removed by the original poster, and the account was deactivated Tuesday afternoon.
This is not the first time Ford’s driving habits have made headlines in Toronto.
Last year, Ford avoided a distracted driving charge for speaking on his cell phone while driving. The incident first came to light after a woman accused the mayor of giving her and her daughter the finger after she asked him to hang up the phone.
A Toronto police spokesperson said at the time that police did not retroactively pursue distracted driving charges because it took up too many resources.
Earlier this year, Ford faced another round of questions after allegedly driving past the open doors of a streetcar, causing an exchange of words with the streetcar operator.
Driving past open streetcar doors is a violation of the Highway Traffic Act, and a driver may be fined up to $109 if they are caught by a police officer.
Coun. Doug Ford purchased the mayor, his brother, a black Cadillac Escalade as a birthday gift this year and has in the past attempted to convince the mayor to hire a driver.
With files from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson