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Battling Distracted Driving: Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road
Cellphones, lipstick and granola bars have no place in your hands when you are behind the wheel.
West Shore RCMP and RCMP across B.C. are placing extra emphasis on cracking down on distracted driving this month.
“We are always looking for distracted drivers, not just in February,” said Sgt. Max Fossum, with the West Shore RCMP. “Ten years ago we didn’t have this problem. Back then it was people not wearing seat belts. Now it’s rare for people to not wear seat belts and we are hoping that will happen with cellphones and texting while driving.”
Cellphone and wireless devices are a large part of the problem, but Fossum noted that distracted driving can stem from eating behind the wheel, applying makeup, fiddling with the stereo or attempting to pick up a dropped item.
It’s not uncommon for RCMP officers to find people watching videos and movies on their devices while driving, Fossum said.
“I know of serious crashes with distracted drivers where fatalities occurred,” he said.
“Last week I gave someone a ticket. That person knew better, but decided to take the call instead. If you receive a text, you need to pull over safety and that doesn’t mean into an emergency lane.”
Fossum pulled the driver over on Island Highway in View Royal. The vehicle was travelling far below the speed limit and the glowing phone screen at night gave the driver away.
Drivers focused on their smartphones may be unaware of abrupt traffic changes, such as construction zones and flaggers directing traffic.
The penalty of for distracted driving is $167 and three points off your licence. Drivers in the graduate licensing program are not permitted to any electronic devices, including hands-free.
“It’s not just about the fine, if you kill someone there could be serious charges,” Fossum said. “We are on the look out and don’t expect a warning. Everyone should know better.”
Did you know?
- Distracted driving is a leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C., and related to an average of 14 fatalities on Vancouver Island each year.
- Drivers are four times more likely to crash their vehicle while talking on a hand-held cellphone and 23 times more likely when texting.
B.C. banned the use of personal electronic devices in cars in January 2010.