Driving in his car on any given day, Const. Andy Dunstan looks around and sees drivers stopped at a red light, using their cell phones.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Dunstan, with the Capital Regional District’s Integrated Road Safety Unit. “You only have to stop at a red light and look over your shoulder and see two or three people around you thinking ‘here’s an opportunity to send that text, check my email or take that selfie’ or whatever it is people do. It’s just crazy.”
Most recently on his way home from work, Dunstan looked over at a novice driver scrolling on her phone non-stop at a red light. He issued her a $167 fine for using an electronic device while driving.
According to Dunstan, distracted driving is on the rise in Greater Victoria and it is something ICBC is trying to combat this month.
As part of Operation Hang Up, a campaign launched by ICBC, Greater Victoria police agencies and volunteers took to local streets to remind people of road safety and distracted driving.
Rows of signs were set up at busy intersections including Blanshard and Bay streets, and Douglas and Hillside streets, reminding drivers to avoid distractions.
The road safety unit doled out roughly 150 tickets in one day, 46 of which were issued for using an electronic device while driving.
Dunstan noted many tickets given out that day were because drivers were distracted with their device, leading to other violations.
For example, people using electronic devices will forget to put on their seatbelt or drivers so engrossed in their phone will miss a green light and try to speed through the red light.
The Victoria Police Department’s traffic section issued 18 violation tickets during the operation.
Dunstan said despite penalties for distracted driving, people still aren’t getting the message.
“(Distracted driving) has become so prevalent now and the consequences are so catastrophic that I wouldn’t be surprised if the legislation was changed to increase the penalty for this kind of offence,” he said. “Clearly $167 is seen as the cost of doing business for some people.”
According to the Motor Vehicle Act, a driver cannot operate a hand-held electronic device (including cell phones, tablets, GPS or music players), and cannot communicate using text messages or emails on any type of electronic device while driving.
Ten people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island on average every year.