Talking on a cellphone makes a driver four times as likely to be in a crash

New crackdown aims to curb distracted drivers

Cellphone talking or texting third top crash cause after speeding, drinking

ICBC and police are revving up their campaign against distracted driving, saying it’s now the third leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C.

Enforcement is being stepped up for the Labour Day weekend and officers will be checking for distracted drivers throughout September.

The crackdown came as a new Ipsos Reid poll was released showing 40 per cent of cellphone owners admit they’ve recently used their hand-held phone while driving despite overwhelming acceptance distracted driving is risky, especially texting.

“The ability to connect with anyone at any time through our mobile phones has led to a serious problem on our roads,” Justice Minister Shirley Bond said.

Police say many drivers try to hide their mobile devices from view by using them from their laps but officers will use a variety of tactics to bust them and hand out $167 fines.

The poll shows cellphone use behind the wheel in the past six months is much higher among younger B.C. drivers –  52 per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds, 48 per cent of 26- to 50-year-olds, 29 per cent of 51- to 65-year-olds and 17 per cent of seniors.

A quarter of all fatal crashes in B.C. are linked to distracted driving – about 94 deaths per year – making it the third top cause after speeding and impaired driving.

ICBC also cited U.S. findings that drivers who talk on hand-held cellphones are four times more likely to crash, and 23 times more likely to crash if texting.

Free downloadable ringtones designed to encourage drivers to resist the urge to answer the phone are being offered by ICBC. The tunes (available at icbc.com/drivesmart) span various genres and include “Road of No Replies,” “Missed Call Master” and “Let it Ring, Baby.”