Distracted drivers received a rude awakening last week.
During a four-day campaign to crack down on motor vehicle operators using electronic devices, the Penticton RCMP issued 103 tickets to violators.
“There’s no question it’s a high number and we were a little alarmed, I guess surprised is a better word,” said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko who worked the random locations with other traffic members. “My understanding is that last month Vancouver City Police had written 800 tickets for electronic devices, so that’s about the same but it’s too many, especially for sleepy, little Penticton.”
In order to catch offenders, a very plain-clothes officer was stationed on the street, often at an intersection, watching for people using the electronic equipment.
When a violator was spotted the vehicle information was radioed to officers waiting around the corner or down the street, and a ticket was issued.
“What was surprising to us was to find how easy it was to focus on something like the use of electronic devices and get those numbers,” said Manchulenko. “Why that is I have no idea, whether these drivers are just not getting it, or they don’t know there is a fine involved or if they just feel they are a better driver than they really are.
“I don’t know, perhaps it’s a social thing, that we can’t be apart from this thing for more than 10 minutes.”
The fine for using such a device is $167, however if the offender is a new driver or is actually texting instead of talking there are three penalty points added to the licence.
Also surprising to Manchulenko was the response of the people who were caught.
“Many people straight out denied it,” he said. “To a large degree people know what they’re doing and they know they shouldn’t be doing it, yet they still do it.
“It’s not unlike speeding, ‘No, it wasn’t me.’ Yeah, it was you and you know what you’re doing is wrong.”
He added many people think it is alright to multi-task when they’re behind the wheel and stopped at a traffic light. Using the time to check messages or text someone.
But in the brief moment it takes a person to look at the telephone, everything can change.
“The light is turning, the pedestrians are moving, the traffic flow is moving the entire situation of the intersection is different,” said Manchulenko. “There is also the possibility pedestrians or other drivers may be moving against the lights unexpectedly.
According to Manchulenko, a vehicle traveling 50 kilometres an hour is moving over 14 metres a second and a lot can change in that time frame.
“We get the argument that, ‘Well I just looked down when the phone rang to just check the number,’” said Manchulenko. “But in that one second you’re through the intersection and already on the other side, into the lane way of the next block.”
“So if the crosswalk is on the other side and if a guy takes a step off the curb in one second, you’re not going to have time to react to that and it’s too late for both of you.”
With today’s technology and relatively inexpensive hands-free equipment available, Manchulenko said there is no reason for drivers not to be paying full attention to the task at hand.