Rick StiebelThe Chronicle
Police across the province, ICBC and the B.C. government are teaming up during the month of September in an effort to continue cracking down on distracted driving.
According to ICBC, police across the province are still seeing too many drivers using cellphones, especially while waiting at an intersection. That’s a misconception police hear too often, and it puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
Lady Smith RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard, the officer in charge of the detachment, said stepping up enforcement is a sign of what’s required because of the number of crashes involving distracted drivers.
The hope was the increase to $365 for a first offences as well as the increase in points resulting in significant addition to the cost of license renewal – depending on the number of infractions – would be stronger deterrents.
Although it’s too early to analyze statistics for that period, the increases don’t appear to be having enough impact, Brissard said.
“We have implored people and the statistics are there,” he said. “But too many people still don’t get it.”
It is illegal to use a cellphone when you are in control of a vehicle, whether you’re at a stop light or bogged down in bumper to bumper traffic. Studies confirm that drivers who talk on a cellphone lose half of their awareness of what is going on around them.
The monthlong campaign of increased enforcement will include B.C. Cell Watch volunteers roadside reminding drivers to leave their phones alone. ICBC road safety coordinators will be attending community events and inviting the public to try a driving simulator to underline the impact using a cellphone has on your ability to drive safely.
“Safety on our highways and in our communities remains our top priority,” B.C. Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure said in a media release. “”We’re asking drivers to stay focused on the road and resist the temptation to use your phone for calls, texts, social media, maps or music. You’re five times more likely to crash if you’re using your phone while driving.”
On average, 10 people a year are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island, according to police data compiled between 2010 and 2014.