Distracted drivers still a plague on roads despite ban

Factor in nearly half of Lower Mainland traffic deaths

Drivers are still talking and texting on the road in large numbers

One year after B.C.’s distracted driving ban kicked in, there’s little sign the threat of fines are helping drivers keep their eyes on the road and off their electronic gadgets.

“There’s a high percentage of people still using their cellphones whenever they’re driving,” RCMP Cpl. Jamie Chung said.

Police issued 32,000 tickets province-wide since the ban on handheld use of cellphones and similar devices began in February 2010, worth a total of $5.2 million in $167 fines.

Distracted driving remained a factor in 32 per cent of all fatal crashes in B.C.’s RCMP-enforced jurisdictions in the past year.

In the Lower Mainland, it’s linked to 48 per cent of traffic deaths – a total of 45 people killed by distracted drivers since the new law took effect.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a distracted driver who caused a deadly crash was talking on a cellphone or texting.

“It means they were doing something that took their eyes off the road,” Chung said. “Looking for a CD on the floor, playing with an iPod or maybe they spilled a cup of coffee and were wiping it up, not watching where they are going.”

Playing video games and programming GPS units is also a problem, he said.

“The worst thing I’ve seen is people looking down and texting when they’re making a left turn.”

Distracted drivers have been hit waiting mid-intersection to turn left when their green light goes yellow and then red. Others stopped at red lights can get rear-ended if the light turns green without them responding.

In addition to the fines, drivers caught texting or emailing also get three penalty points against their insurance.

RCMP Traffic Services Supt. Norm Gaumont suggested a review may be needed to examine whether the distracted driving penalties are stiff enough.

“If you look at our statistics, it’s clear the public doesn’t realize just how dangerous it can be if you don’t have your full focus on the road,” he said.

BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation executive director Allan Lamb said it’s “unbelievable” large numbers of drivers still talk and text.

He said everyone should rethink their near-compulsive need to be constantly plugged in and available to employers, friends and family.

He said businesses and organizations with employees who must drive on the job should develop a policy on distracted driving.

Enforcement of such policies can be a problem, however, as even ICBC discovered in recent weeks.

Private investigators hired by ICBC continued using handheld videocameras while driving to spy on an Abbotsford man suing for damages from a crash. The tactic apparently continued until well into 2010 – after the ban took effect – until a judge criticized the practice and officials vowed it would change.

ICBC had long had guidelines requiring all employees and contractors to drive safely and obey traffic laws.

Technically, a handheld video camera is not on the list of specifically banned devices, so police could not issue a ticket under the new law, although they could pursue a charge under the Motor Vehicle Act of driving without due care and attention.

A policing blitz throughout February is now underway to step up enforcement of the law.

Officers will be on the lookout not just for phone and gadget users, but also drivers putting on makeup while driving or reading a book or newspaper, even though those are not ticketable under the new law.

Police may be disguised in garb like mascot costumes to snare violators.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Chilliwack Terry Fox Run in the rain

Wet weather didn’t dampen spirits or enthusiasm for the annual cancer fundraiser

Chilliwack’s Belle Voci brings three-day a cappella festival to Fraser Valley

Singers will learn from two of Lower Mainland’s best music leaders at Belle Voci A Cappella Festival

Man charged with stealing Chief Dan George sculpture from Abbotsford school

Piece turned up in Mission pawn shop after Chilliwack artist noticed it missing this summer

New real-time location technology coming soon to Fraser Valley buses

Waiting riders will be able to see location of their bus using their phones

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Sept. 16 to 22

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Sikh millworker lodges human rights complaint against Interfor, again

Mander Sohal, fired from Delta’s Acorn Mill, alleges discrimination based on religion and disability

Most Read