A pair of Ridge Meadows Mounties were partially hidden behind blackberry bushes, set up on the edge of the Burger King parking lot Tuesday morning, hunting for traffic violators.
Specifically, the duo were looking for drivers on their cellphones and people not wearing their seatbelts.
The hunt was apparently paying dividends, with a few cars lined up in the fast food restaurant parking lot, each driver waiting to receive a ticket.
It was part of a month-long blitz to wake up drivers to the rules and dangers associated with talking and texting while driving.
Ridge Meadows RCMP will “be out to enforce distracted driver legislation,” said traffic section Cpl. Dave Ewert.
“Statistics don’t lie, distracted driving is a prominent preventable cause of car crashes these days, and it simply is not safe,” Ewert added, urging all drivers to leave handheld electronic device, such as cellphones, alone while behind the wheel.
“This includes just holding the device in your hand, as that is an offence as well. With just some common sense, we can all be safer on our roads,” he said.
While enforcement is important, public education and awareness also remain an important component in changing people’s attitudes towards this bad habit.
To help drive home the message, ICBC has created free, downloadable reminder ringtones telling drivers to keep their minds on the road and advising them not to respond to calls or texts while driving, said Kate Woochuk, ICBC’s road safety coordinator for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
People can download the free ringtones at www.icbc.com/drivesmart.
“Driver distraction is the third leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C.,” Woochuk explained.
“These are preventable and we can all do our part. Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention. You are four times more likely to crash when talking on a handheld mobile phone while driving, and 23 times more likely to get in a crash if you text while driving.”
According to police statistics compiled from 2007 to 2011, distracted driving was responsible for about a quarter of all car crash fatalities in the province, and it is the third leading cause of car crash fatalities.
During that period, there were 94 deaths directly attributed to driver distractions, and that included use of personal electronic device behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is narrowly trailing behind other high profile causes of fatal collisions: on average, 129 deaths occur in speed-related crashes, and 113 in impaired-related crashes.
Tips offered up for driver
• Pull over to make or receive a call or send a text. Make sure you’re safely off to the side of the road so you’re not a danger to other vehicles.
• Take a message. Let your mobile phone pick up your calls and text messages. It’s easier and much safer to retrieve your messages at a later time.
• Ask your passengers to make or receive calls for you.
• If you must take a call, keep the conversation brief and remember you can only use a hands-free electronic device while driving. Hands-free means a Bluetooth, wired headset, or even a speakerphone but the device must be securely attached to the car – you can’t have it in your lap or loose on the seat beside you.
• And remember, drivers in the graduated licensing program are not allowed to use hands-free cellphones and devices behind the wheel.
• Plan ahead to avoid distraction. Turn your mobile phone off or place it in the trunk of your car and/or in the backseat so you won’t be tempted to talk, email, or text when you’re on the road.
Did you know?
• B.C. drivers consider texting while driving to be just as risky as drinking and driving;
• Three-quarters (73 per cent) of B.C. drivers consider texting while at an intersection or stop sign to be risky behaviour;.
• Overall, 87 per cent of B.C. drivers own a cellphone, and 40 per cent of this group say that they have used their cellphone while driving;
• Under half (44 per cent) of B.C. drivers consider driving to be a complex task;
• Drivers who say that driving is not complex are more likely to use an electronic device (52 per cent).
– Ipsos Reid March 2012 survey for ICBC