Distracted and dangerous on the road

Police in Greater Victoria are cracking down on drivers using their cellphones this month. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Police in Greater Victoria are cracking down on drivers using their cellphones this month.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

A pair of youth are likely still talking about the day last week they helped Saanich police Sgt. John Price issue their moms a ticket.

On separate occasions, Price, with the department’s Traffic Safety Unit, caught two moms not complying with B.C.’s distracted driving legislation while their child was in the vehicle. The officer had each kid read the ticket aloud to their parent, using the roadside stop as an educational opportunity for all.

“Our message to everybody out there is: hands-free means hands-free. … It’s really telling when we’re stationary and you watch as people approach an intersection,” Price said. “It is one of the leading causes of serious and fatal crashes.”

Police in Greater Victoria are cracking down on the dangerous driving habit with a month-long campaign targeting cellphone-use behind the wheel. In the first five days of February, Saanich police issued 57 tickets for using an electronic device while driving. More than 100 tickets have been issued in Saanich so far this month.

B.C. banned drivers from using electronic devices in January 2010, but even four years later officers are still hearing excuses.

“One of the common themes we’re getting from people is they have their cellphone in hand on speaker mode,” Price said. “You can’t have it in your hand, that doesn’t count as hands-free.”

One person was hit with the $167 fine twice in the first six days of the campaign.

Last week, officers from the Victoria Police Department caught distracted drivers in a variety of ways, including being in unmarked cars and being passengers on B.C. Transit buses. Cops on the bus would radio their counterparts on the road if they saw drivers displaying behaviour consistent with distracted driving.

“Being on the bus, you’re in a vehicle people aren’t suspecting you to be in … and looking down into a vehicle is much easier,” said Const. Kristin Greffard with VicPD’s traffic unit. “It was great – in a matter of two hours we had nine distracted drivers (and) five seatbelt tickets.”

“We’re trying to be creative to let people know we’re out there,” she said. “The transit thing was new for us and it was relatively successful, so we might look at that again in the future.”

Both departments plan to target distracted drivers all month, citing an average 91 deaths on B.C. roads each year attributed to distracted driving.

“Most motorists are doing the right thing … but it’s a significant ongoing problem,” Price said. “Somewhere along the line with the proliferation of smartphones was a shift in mentality that we’re supposed to be reachable 24-7.

“On a weekly basis we get calls from Joe Q motorist reporting other motorists. So there’s an awareness it’s unlawful, but more importantly there’s an awareness that it’s a risk.”

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