03/05/2013 03:27 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan legislative committee to review safety after deadly year on roads

REGINA - A new committee is to look at ways to improve traffic safety after a deadly year on Saskatchewan roads.

A motion passed in the legislature Tuesday that creates the committee with five government and two opposition politicians.

"The first thing we want to look at is the fatalities, what's causing the fatalities," said MLA Darryl Hickie, legislative secretary to the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, or SGI.

"We see it for various reasons — impaired driving, distracted driving, some related to speed ... wildlife concerns ... intersection safety — so we want to see what's causing these fatalities to rise."

Hickie said there will be public consultations throughout the province and input from experts. A final report is due by Aug. 30.

He said everything is on the table, but ideas could include better marketing and education or changes to legislation.

A law that bans motorists from using hand-held cellphones to talk, text, email or surf the Internet while driving took effect Jan. 1, 2010.

But Hickie, a former police officer, said there has been confusion about people using phones when they're stopped at a red light.

"Unless your vehicle is in park on the side of the road, you're still operating a motor vehicle by definition of the law," he said.

"So if you're having a phone in your hand at a red light or a stop sign, you may have to be in violation of the law if we go to recommend the change.

"I think ... we have to look at broadening some of the definition and the regulations to make sure that there's more available for police officers to actually have more discretion to actually issue the tickets."

Officials have said 2012 was the deadliest year ever on Saskatchewan highways with 175 traffic deaths. SGI has said the top two causes were distracted driving and drunk driving.