EDITORIAL: Stay off the phone

You're 23 times more likely to get into an accident if you're using your cellphone while driving.

In the first 20 months of British Columbia’s distracted driving law, police issued 46,008 tickets to drivers for using hand-held electronic devices while behind the wheel. Another 1,372 tickets were issued for emailing or texting while driving.

The ministry of the Solicitor-General says that means 16 people are still alive thanks to a 12 per cent reduction in motor vehicle accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries.

The statistics suggest the two-year-old ban on talking or texting on a cell phone while driving has been effective. But as anyone who spends any amount of time on the province’s roads and highways will likely attest, the reality is somewhat different.

Drivers are still talking on their cell phones. Some are just more discreet about doing it. They wait until they’re on quieter side streets, or they look around to ensure no police are nearby. Or they try to hide their activity, keeping their phone out of sight as they press numbers or check their text messages. Others openly seem to be flaunting the law, chatting with their cell phone pressed up to their ear as they drive along busy thoroughfares.

A recent survey by ICBC says their excuses range from outright defiance at the righteousness of the law, to misguided affection for the feel of the phone in their hand to a wrongheaded belief that making or taking a call while at a red light doesn’t count as driving.

The risks presented by distracted driving are very real. In fact, you’re 23 times more likely to get into an accident if you’re using your cellphone while driving.

So even though the coast may be clear of vigilant police, stay off the phone while driving.

– Black Press