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

Sewage fees going up 10% in Harrison Hot Springs

Residential homes will pay $22.50 more in 2019 to flush their toilets

Origami-inspired art lights up Chilliwack art gallery

Chilliwack textile sculpture artist Sylvie Roussel-Jannsens presents Whole, a solo exhibition

Missing Chilliwack man last seen on Island 22

Paul James Braumberger, 66, hasn’t been heard from since Jan. 11

AESS senior girls eyeing spot in basketball provincials

The team needs to move up one more ranking get a place in the championships

End ‘exploitative’ parking fees at Lower Mainland hospitals, group says

HospitalPayParking.ca is criticizing a new contract between health authorities and Impark

VIDEO: Harrison sailor looking for competitors to race model boats

Bernhard Van Velze is hoping to create a club for model sailboats at Harrison Lake

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

M’s legend Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina also make the grade

South Surrey mother ‘never called 911’ after killing daughter, court hears

Crown submits evidence shows Lisa Batstone wanted eight-year-old Teagan to die

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Heavy snowfall expected for Coquihalla, Okanagan valley

Coquihalla highway, the Connector, and Highway 3, from Princeton to Allison Pass are getting snow.

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Video: Runaway Coquihalla dog returned to owner

Archer, the dog found roaming along Coq. Hwy. on Jan. 19, has been reunited with owner

Most Read