RCMP initiative targets distracted drivers

A month-long RCMP initiative cracking down on distracted drivers is underway.

A month-long RCMP initiative cracking down on distracted drivers is underway.

Throughout February, RCMP officers around the province – including from the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment – will target distracted or inattentive drivers, mainly those drivers insistent on using a cell phone.

Distracted driving is one of the major driving behaviours that contribute to fatal and serious injury motor vehicle collisions.

“Last year, 27 per cent of collision fatalities in B.C. were caused by distracted or inattentive drivers, despite more than 40,000 violation tickets being issued for use of electronic device or driving without due care and attention,” said Cpl. Robert McDonald of E Division Traffic Services in Vancouver.

“The public needs to be part of the solution by separating the activities of driving and electronic device use.”

On average in B.C., 91 drivers per year are killed as a result of distracted driving, and leading the way is the Southern Interior with an average of 34 distracted driving deaths per year, three more than in the Lower Mainland.

Locally in February, drivers may see RCMP at intersections phoning ahead to a colleague after they’ve seen a driver talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. Officers may even catch drivers in the act.

“There are lots of people who drive and still use their cell phones,” said Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk.

“This month-long campaign is an initiative of the RCMP, government and ICBC.”

To be clear, you can drive while using a cell phone as long as it’s a hands-free device, i.e., a bluetooth.

You can not text while at a stop sign or stop light.

“If you pull up to a stop sign and an officer sees you talking with a cell phone up to your ear or texting, you’ll be ticketed,” said Molendyk. “You can’t text while stopped because your attention is away from your driving. You should be focused on the stop, the lights and the traffic beside you.”

If you need to send or check a text or e-mail, you must pull over, off of the traveled portion of the roadway, and bring your vehicle to a complete stop.

The fine for using an electronic device without hands-free device while driving is $167. As well, drivers who text or e-mail while driving are subject to three driver penalty points in addition to the fine.

Drivers in the Graduated Licence Program (GLP) are not permitted to use any electronic device, even hands-free devices. The fine is $167 and three demerit points.

Drivers who are observed using an electronic device while committing other moving violations that put themselves and others at risk will face a charge of driving without due care and attention, which carries a fine of $368.

Police are giving motorists plenty of notice that one of the days they will, for certain, be targeting distracted drivers is Valentine’s Day.

“That is a day officers will be out because we want to make sure everyone gets home safely to their Valentine,” said Molendyk.