Opinion: Distracted driving message not getting through

During Thursday’s three-hour enforcement exercise 37 tickets were issued for distracted driving.

It was only a couple of weeks ago in this space that we urged Chilliwack drivers to set down the phone while they’re in the car.

We even warned them that RCMP and Chilliwack Speed Watch volunteers would be on the streets, watching for distracted drivers.

Since then, volunteers have been at several locations, including Five Corners, as they wrote down the licence numbers of offending drivers. Those drivers will soon get a letter in the mail advising them that had an RCMP member witnessed the infraction, they’d be facing a $167 fine, not just a warning.

On Thursday the RCMP were in place. And despite warnings – not just in Chilliwack, but across the province – it was easy pickings.

Safety and law enforcement officials had declared March anti-distracted driving month.

The goal is a simple one: make drivers aware that failing to leave the phone alone poses a risk to themselves and to others. In fact, according to ICBC, roughly one in four vehicle deaths are caused by distracted driving.

In the Lower Mainland, it’s estimated that 27 people die in distracted driving-related crashes every year. Many more are injured.

Given those numbers, it’s difficult to understand why so many drivers feel compelled to text, tweet or phone while behind the wheel.

But they do.

During Thursday’s three-hour exercise 37 tickets were issued for distracted driving at the corner of Vedder Road and Luckakuck.

That’s about one every five minutes.

Enforcement exercises elsewhere have netted similar results.

So why aren’t people getting the message?

It wasn’t long ago that seatbelts were optional; that some drivers thought nothing of having “one more for the road” before getting behind the wheel.

But behaviours do change.

Unfortunately, the longer that change takes, the more deaths and injuries will result.