A mix of overt and covert enforcement techniques were utilized by RCMP South Okanagan Traffic Services on the weekend as part of a dedicated distracted driving enforcement campaign.
“The gloves are off as far as the operational plans we’re putting in place. To give you an example, this weekend we deployed a civilian shuttle bus as a mobile surveillance vehicle. Officers rode onboard and spotted/photographed violators while calling them out to nearby enforcement teams. We also had officers in civilian clothes hanging around at intersections, spotting violators and calling in the enforcement teams,” said Cpl. Ryan Mcleod, South Okanagan Traffic Services.
In the Penticton area alone, over 200 enforcement actions were taken which included 94 seatbelt violations and 54 cellphone violations.
“In one case, the shuttle bus called out a lady that was driving by, phone pressed up her to her ear, chatting away. The officer caught up to her with his police vehicle, followed her for awhile while she continued her call. Turned on the red and blue lights, still oblivious — she continued talking on the phone for several blocks until parking in a nearby mall, completely unaware of the police officer behind her,” said Mcleod. “She parked and the officer walked up to her window. She was still on the phone. It begs a question. If you can’t spot a police car behind you with it’s emergency lights on, what else are you missing?”
Using an electronic device while driving carries of fine of $368 along with additional penalties from ICBC, said Mcleod. He added it’s time for drivers who can’t resist checking their Facebook, making a call or sending a text message to have a word with themselves as they are putting lives at risk.
“Looking at and using an electronic device while driving is like driving with your eyes closed. We recognize that risk and we’re upping our enforcement game to counter. Our officers are encouraged to be creative. We are devising new ways to intercept distracted drivers and encourage a change in their behaviour,” said Mcleod.
RCMP also caught drivers breaking other rules of the road. On Friday morning at 7:21 a.m. in Summerland, a driver was stopped for not wearing a seatbelt and was also found to be impaired by alcohol. The driver received an immediate 90-day driving prohibition and 30-day vehicle impoundment in addition to the seatbelt ticket (a $167 fine).
On Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Penticton, a driver stopped for no seatbelt was found to be wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant and was taken into custody.
Two vehicles were also impounded for excessive speeding during the blitz.
Mcleod offered this “rules of the road” overview for drivers based on their weekend blitz:
• Don’t use your cellphone at a red light. The law applies whenever you’re in control of the vehicle, whether stopped at a red light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
• Keep your hands off. Hands-free means a Bluetooth, wired headset or speakerphone that can be operated with one touch or voice commands. Make sure to secure the cellphone to the vehicle before driving. You cannot hold a hand-held electronic device while driving, this includes iPods and other audio devices. Many drivers also seem to think that holding a cellphone in their hand on speaker phone rather than up to their ear is acceptable. It’s absolutely not and you will be fined.
• If you have a Learner’s (L) or Novice (N) licence, you aren’t allowed to use any electronic device behind the wheel, for any purpose, even in hands-free mode.
• Make sure you understand the law on how to use electronic devices while driving (RoadSafetyBC)
Tips for drivers:
No call, text or email is so important it’s worth risking your life or the lives of others. Let calls go to voicemail and ignore your text messages while driving.
Turn it off and put it out of sight or turn on airplane mode to avoid the temptation to check your phone.
Assign a designated texter. Ask your passengers to make or receive calls and texts for you.
Use the ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature on most handheld devices.