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Garneau launches annual Don't Text and Drive day - and is calling on cyclists to highlight dangers on social media

Initiative takes place on 22 December - anniversary of death of pro cyclist Jason Lowndes, who rode for Garneau Factory Racing

The cycle clothing and footwear business Garneau has launched an annual Don’t Text and Drive day commemorating cyclists who have been killed by drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel. The date chosen is 22 December, which this year marks the first anniversary of the death of Australian pro cyclist Jason Lowndes, who rode for Garneau Factory Racing.

The company, which is based in Quebec, is calling on cyclists around the world to get involved in the initiative using the hashtag #donttextanddrive to highlight the dangers caused to vulnerable road users posed by drivers using hand-held devices at the wheel, reports Canadian Cycling Magazine.

It has published a series of infographics such as the one below on Twitter and others on Facebook that highlight the dangers, citing research and statistics, and that it is asking people to share on their social media timelines on Saturday.

The initiative from the business, founded by former Olympic cyclist Louis Garneau, has been welcomed by Quebec’s deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault.

She said: “As Minister of Public Security, I feel very concerned about this problem. Texting while driving is against the law and this behaviour puts everyone’s security at risk.

“No text message will ever be worth sacrificing a person’s life. I welcome this initiative by Mr. Garneau. It will surely make people think and will motivate them to drive more safely.”

Here on road.cc we’ve reported on many cases in which cyclists have been killed by distracted drivers, ranging from professional cyclists such as Michele Scarponi to, more commonly, ordinary people out for a ride.

One of the highest profile cases here in the UK concerned van driver Christopher Gard, who was texting a friend when he killed cyclist Lee Martin near Farnham, Hampshire in August 2015.

It emerged that Gard had a string of previous convictions for illegal use of a handheld device while driving.

The most recent of those was just six weeks before the fatal crash, but magistrates decided not to ban him from driving on the grounds of “exceptional hardship.”

Gard was jailed for the unusually long term of nine years for causing death by dangerous driving – the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment – and unsuccessfully appealed the length of the term.

After the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal in January 2017, Duncan Dollimore of Cycling UK called on the government to close the loophole that allows drivers to keep their licences by pleading “exceptional hardship.”

He said: “Christopher Gard appealed his nine-year prison term because he thought he was treated too harshly, and his sentence was excessive. As many families of other victims of road crashes will know however, Lee Martin’s family’s sentence will last a lifetime.

“Whilst the Court of Appeal has reviewed and agreed with the original sentence, it is a tragedy that nobody will review the earlier decision which allowed Gard to continue driving with six previous convictions for driving while using his mobile phone.

“The exceptional hardship loophole, and the reluctance of the courts to take people off the road before they destroy the lives of others, must be reviewed urgently. Cycling UK has repeatedly asked the Ministry of Justice to look at this within their review of motoring offences and penalties, but so far we have been ignored.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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