Eating cereal, reading a book or petting a dog – Sgt. Lorne Lecker has seen drivers do it all.
The traffic enforcement officer has worked almost 30 years for the RCMP, and now with the Deas Island Traffic Service across the Lower Mainland. September is Distracted Driving Awareness month.
“I once saw a person driving with a baby standing up and leaning on the steering wheel,” Lecker said. That driver was later issued a ticket and child protection services was called.
Just last week, Lecker said he watched a driver brushing their teeth.
He also recently saw a man trimming his nose hairs with cuticle scissors at the wheel. “What if he was to go over a bump?”
Humour aside, Lecker has also seen firsthand the fatal consequences that driving distracted can have.
He was driving along Highway 1 once 20 years ago, behind a driver who was eating yogurt, when the man crashed into a tree. He ended up dying in Lecker’s arms.
“It’s in my mind every day,” he said.
Thousands of tickets issued since then, Lecker said if the only way to stop distracted driving is to hit someone with a hefty fine, then so be it.
“If people can’t realize on their own that driving is one of the most dangerous tasks in their life, and involves your full attention,” he said, “I would rather write a thousand tickets than witness one more fatal collision.”
Distracted driving met with plenty of excuses
When it comes to using your phone or other electronic device, Lecker said he has handed out almost 2,000 tickets for such an offence since the law took effect in 2010. Fines and penalties are now at $368 and four penalty points.
Distracted driving by other means can end much worse for the driver, with a $368 ticket for driving without due care and six penalty points.
Lecker said it’s pretty easy to spot a driver looking down at their phone, but many of them still try to weasel out of the fine.
“It wasn’t a phone, it was a wallet, hairbrush, banana, etc.,” Lecker said he’s heard many times, and even, “’I was just using it to check the time.’”
Some people insist they were only looking during a red light.
“People seem to feel they are doing it safely and for everyone else it’s a risk,” he said. “But driving is a deadly serious business. It needs one’s full attention.”