Distracted driving a big concern in Abbotsford
Abbotsford Police are hoping the release of a video this week showing a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle increases awareness of distracted driving.
Const. Ian MacDonald said distracted driving is an ongoing issue on Abbotsford roads. Laws enacted in 2010 to prohibit the use of handheld devices while driving are not getting through to all motorists, he said.
In February of this year alone, the Abbotsford Police Department issued 58 tickets under the new law.
"There is no shortage of people who are continuing to be distracted by cellphones and electronic devices. I see them all the time," MacDonald said.
He said many drivers are not aware that other distractions – such as putting on makeup, picking up a dropped item or fiddling with the radio – can be subject to a ticket for driving without due care and attention.
That was the case for the driver of the vehicle featured in the video released this week.
The footage was taken Dec. 10 from video surveillance of a home near the scene at Hillcrest Avenue and Parkview Street. It shows a 64-year-old man waiting to cross at a marked crosswalk. A woman pushing a stroller and walking with two young children comes up behind him.
A car to their left stops, and the group proceeds north across Hillcrest. As they are walking across the last half of the crosswalk, a Volkswagen Jetta to their right does not slow down, and plows into the man, propelling him 50 feet down the road.
MacDonald said the man is still recovering from head injuries and fractures to his lower body.
He said the driver stayed on the scene and indicated that she had been momentarily distracted by glancing at her purse just before the collision.
MacDonald tells of another situation late last year in which a woman drove into a post. She told police at the scene that her dog had distracted her by moving from the passenger set onto her lap while she was driving.
"What if that was in a school zone or in a crosswalk or approaching a busy intersection?" MacDonald said.
A common scenario involving pedestrian collisions is when a driver is making a left turn and runs into a person in a crosswalk.
MacDonald said distracted driving and pedestrian collisions can be attributed to the same cause.
"Driving is such a part of North American culture. We just consider it part of our routine … I don't think we take into consideration that we are holding our lives and the lives of our passengers in our hands and the lives of others on the roads."
The APD has made road safety its top priority for 2013 following a year that saw nine pedestrian fatalities and 480 injury collisions. The yearly average over a five-year period (2007-11) across the entire Lower Mainland is 36 pedestrian fatalities, according to ICBC.
The APD's road-safety strategies for this year include an awareness campaign, of which distracted driving is a part; increased traffic enforcement; and engineering improvements in problem areas.