Distracted drivers still a plague on roads despite ban

Factor in nearly half of Lower Mainland traffic deaths

Drivers are still talking and texting on the road in large numbers

One year after B.C.’s distracted driving ban kicked in, there’s little sign the threat of fines are helping drivers keep their eyes on the road and off their electronic gadgets.

“There’s a high percentage of people still using their cellphones whenever they’re driving,” RCMP Cpl. Jamie Chung said.

Police issued 32,000 tickets province-wide since the ban on handheld use of cellphones and similar devices began in February 2010, worth a total of $5.2 million in $167 fines.

Distracted driving remained a factor in 32 per cent of all fatal crashes in B.C.’s RCMP-enforced jurisdictions in the past year.

In the Lower Mainland, it’s linked to 48 per cent of traffic deaths – a total of 45 people killed by distracted drivers since the new law took effect.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a distracted driver who caused a deadly crash was talking on a cellphone or texting.

“It means they were doing something that took their eyes off the road,” Chung said. “Looking for a CD on the floor, playing with an iPod or maybe they spilled a cup of coffee and were wiping it up, not watching where they are going.”

Playing video games and programming GPS units is also a problem, he said.

“The worst thing I’ve seen is people looking down and texting when they’re making a left turn.”

Distracted drivers have been hit waiting mid-intersection to turn left when their green light goes yellow and then red. Others stopped at red lights can get rear-ended if the light turns green without them responding.

In addition to the fines, drivers caught texting or emailing also get three penalty points against their insurance.

RCMP Traffic Services Supt. Norm Gaumont suggested a review may be needed to examine whether the distracted driving penalties are stiff enough.

“If you look at our statistics, it’s clear the public doesn’t realize just how dangerous it can be if you don’t have your full focus on the road,” he said.

BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation executive director Allan Lamb said it’s “unbelievable” large numbers of drivers still talk and text.

He said everyone should rethink their near-compulsive need to be constantly plugged in and available to employers, friends and family.

He said businesses and organizations with employees who must drive on the job should develop a policy on distracted driving.

Enforcement of such policies can be a problem, however, as even ICBC discovered in recent weeks.

Private investigators hired by ICBC continued using handheld videocameras while driving to spy on an Abbotsford man suing for damages from a crash. The tactic apparently continued until well into 2010 – after the ban took effect – until a judge criticized the practice and officials vowed it would change.

ICBC had long had guidelines requiring all employees and contractors to drive safely and obey traffic laws.

Technically, a handheld video camera is not on the list of specifically banned devices, so police could not issue a ticket under the new law, although they could pursue a charge under the Motor Vehicle Act of driving without due care and attention.

A policing blitz throughout February is now underway to step up enforcement of the law.

Officers will be on the lookout not just for phone and gadget users, but also drivers putting on makeup while driving or reading a book or newspaper, even though those are not ticketable under the new law.

Police may be disguised in garb like mascot costumes to snare violators.

Just Posted

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Free parking not in the cards for Fraser Valley hospitals

Chair says board may look at ways to make parking easier, but not free

VIDEO: LEGO fundraiser builds playground purse

Inspired families built LEGO creations, helped Silver Creek build playground

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Langley City hits up province for share of pot revenue

The province says it understands municipalities will face extra costs when marijuana is legalized.

B.C. climber remembered for gentle spirit, love of mountains

Marc-André Leclerc had been hearing the call of the mountains since childhood

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Most Read