Chilliwack RCMP take aim at distracted driving

On average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland every year.

Cpl. Monty Zimmer (left) and Const. Joe McLelland with RCMP's Fraser Valley Traffic Service use a spotting scope to catch distracted drivers on Evans Road on Tuesday.

Cpl. Monty Zimmer (left) and Const. Joe McLelland with RCMP's Fraser Valley Traffic Service use a spotting scope to catch distracted drivers on Evans Road on Tuesday.

Some drivers still can’t seem to leave their phones alone.

A Distracted Driving campaign was launched across B.C. Tuesday and a local enforcement project brought RCMP and ICBC reps together in Chilliwack.

A total of 39 tickets were issued by officers for “use of an electronic device,”  while 26 were for seatbelts, and another 22 were just warnings.

“Police are taking this seriously,” said RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail. “It’s clear that distracted driving kills.”

Those who were caught red-handed with electronic devices or other distractions in Chilliwack this week were handed a $167 ticket and three points off their licence.

“So if this is the only way to get a message across, then that’s what we’ll do, more enforcement and more education.”

In Chilliwack they rotated between four roadside sites on Tuesday morning for the enforcement campaign, including one on Evans Parkway. Officers used scopes to pick out drivers not paying attention down the road,  who were pulled over as they approached.

Distracted driving causes more than a quarter of all crash fatalities in B.C. at 28 per cent, according to ICBC. It’s the second leading cause of traffic fatalities, with a total of 88 people killed across the entire province.

That should give people pause, and make them leave their phones alone.

There is even a “distracted driver app” for those who can’t help themselves, since stats show you’re four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone. Part of the challenge is the way everyone has grown so attached to these devices in recent years.

“Being connected on their phones is a lifeline for some people,” said Mike Weightman, ICBC road safety coordinator for the Lower Mainland.

It’s also grooming, eating, writing and other distractions, but personal electronic devices are the worst culprits statistically.

On average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland every year. Despite the penalties and safety risk, everyone still sees drivers chatting on their phones or texting in traffic.

“We all see it. But when you really think about it, nothing is important enough to risk their lives for,” Cpl. Rail added. “We’re hoping a campaign like this will work.”