If you’re still using your cellphone while driving, police have a message for you: #LeaveYourPhoneAlone.
That’s the thrust of a new campaign from RCMP and ICBC that saw police hit the streets in Ladysmith and around the province in an effort to crack down on distracted driving.
“It’s about community awareness, being safe on our streets and on our highways,” said Cpl. Cari Lougheed as she led a group of Mounties and Citizens on Patrol volunteers on a traffic blitz throughout the community.
Lougheed said many drivers simply refuse to get the message since B.C.’s distracted driver laws went on the books on Jan. 1, 2010.
“Unfortunately we’re often heading to calls as we see it so we’re not able to address it as we see it all the time,” said Lougheed, who was keeping an eye out for distracted drivers and other infractions at the traffic circle at First and Symonds. “So this gives us an opportunity to actually target it and educate everybody that it is something we are aware of and concerned about.”
And the message going out is certainly an alarming one. Distracted driving has overtaken impaired driving as the second leading cause of fatal accidents, resulting in 88 deaths each year on B.C. highways, behind only the 105 people killed annually in speed-related crashes.
ICBC road safety co-ordinator Caroline Robinson said the figures show the seriousness of the situation, calling texting and driving one of the most risky behaviours you can do in a vehicle.
“You are four times more likely to get into a crash if you have a hand-held cellphone,” she said. “The factors just go up and texting and driving is probably one of the most complex things you can do. It shouldn’t be happening inside a vehicle when you’re driving.”
Lougheed said from what she sees on the road, the situation isn’t improving.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “People don’t get that it’s not OK. Yeah, you’re stopped at a stop sign or at a red light, it’s not OK to carry on your conversion while you’re sitting there waiting because you’re not engaged with the traffic around you.”
Distracted driving results in an estimated 12 fatalities each far on Vancouver Island, and Robinson said ICBC has launched an awareness campaign that will coincide with increased police enforcement on distracted driving.
“It’s not about getting a ticket, it’s about having that personal responsibility when you’re driving,” said Robinson.
“When people are accountable for their actions and they slow down and leave room between them and the vehicle in front of them, when they don’t use their cellphones, when they are aware, that’s when we are going to see things get better on our roads. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”