A month-long crackdown on distracted driving in March may have ended, but police say there’s little sign that motorists are getting the message to put down the phone while driving.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said officers handed out more than 200 tickets for distracted driving last month.
MacDonald said that number is not out of the ordinary for Abbotsford, where officers regularly find distracted drivers during speed crackdowns, drinking and driving roadblocks and any other traffic enforcement work being done.
“Although March is distracted driving month, I think you can make a fair case that every month is distracted driving month,” MacDonald said.
He said police are puzzled as to why people aren’t putting away their devices despite the well-publicized fact that distracted driving is the second-leading cause of traffic fatalities according to ICBC.
Distracted driving, speed and impaired driving frequently swap spots in the top three contributing causes to fatal accidents, but MacDonald said the public seems to treat in-car cellphone use differently from those other two factors.
“People love their devices and even though there are technological solutions …. people just don’t want to do it,” he said.
Don Miller, ICBC road safety co-ordinator for Abbotsford/Mission, noted that motorists are four times more likely to be in a crash if they are using their phones.
According to the insurance company, on average, there are 88 fatalities each year in B.C. related to distracted driving, with 30 people killed in such crashes in the Lower Mainland alone.
Those caught using a device face three penalty points and a $167 fine. Penalties escalate for repeat offences.
Miller offered the following tips for road users:
• Leave your phone alone. No call or text is worth risking your life or others. Let calls go to voicemail and ignore your text messages while driving.
• If you have to take a call, pull over if it’s safe to do so or use your phone in hands-free mode; stay focused on the road and keep the conversation brief.
• Plan to avoid distraction. Turn your cellphone off or place it in the trunk of your car so you won’t be tempted to talk, email or text when you’re on the road.
• Assign a designated texter. Ask passengers to handle calls and texts.
• Keep your hands off. Hands-free means a Bluetooth or wired headset or speakerphone.
– with files from Carol Aun