Drivers with a habit of checking their phone while behind the wheel should rethink their behaviour as police officers could very well be scoping them from blocks away.
Karon Trenaman, ICBC’s road safety and community coordinator for Delta and New Westminster, told the Reporter distracted driving over the last decade has overtaken impaired driving as the number two cause of crashes resulting in serious injury or death.
“I have stood with police and watch people doing their nails, so it’s always been around,” Trenaman said.
“But it’s only since the prevalence of the smartphone that we’ve really noticed a significant, horrible impact on our statistics as far as the number of car crashes skyrocketing.”
ICBC data suggests that distracted driving is the cause of 27 per cent of all fatal crashes in the province. Because of that, ICBC, Delta police and local volunteers are in Delta’s high-traffic areas this week reminding drivers to keep their focus on the road.
“The point of this is to overtly let motorists know that they shouldn’t be on the phone,” Trenaman said Thursday morning on 56th Street and View Crescent in Tsawwassen.
“As they pass by, those that choose to disregard [the law] will meet someone who will say, ‘Well, if you didn’t like the education, we’ll give you the enforcement.'”
The current rate for a distracted driving ticket is $368 and four penalty points, Trenaman said, adding it does not matter whether a driver is at a red light, stopped in traffic or keying directions into their GPS app.
According to the ICBC, those caught driving distracted will pay an extra $210 for the fourth point the next time they renew their insurance. Drivers can accumulate only three points in a calendar year without penalty.
“If officers see that, they have the right to ticket you immediately without asking questions,” she said.
However, drivers should not count on enforcement efforts to be this “overt.” Trenaman said officers looking for distracted driving can be on a bus or disguised as city workers on power poles, and can even see them from blocks away with high-powered scopes.
Quoting a slogan from a similar campaign in Victoria, Delta police Const. Lee Chapman said, “We know what you’re doing when you’re looking at your crotch.”
He explained that since new regulations were implemented banning the handling of phones while driving, many people have simply put them down and continued on. However, looking down will usually alert an officer that a driver is distracted.
“We can still see by your actions what you’re doing,” Chapman said. “Texting while driving is not safe and it’s comparable to impaired driving.”
Chapman explained the individual locations for the enforcement campaign were picked because they are arterial traffic routes that see a lot of cars come through. He said he was working on the campaign on Scott Roads in North Delta last week and caught four people on their phone in one hour.
“It’s a habit people need to kick,” Chapman said. “It’s still an issue that we need to curb. It’s been a habit since cell phones [came into fashion and proliferated].”
Today (March 15), DPD officers and volunteers will be in the area of 72nd Avenue and 116th Street in North Delta and on Tuesday (March 19), it will be Ladner’s turn.