Mission RCMP Const. Alyn Beerda can see whether drivers are on their cell phones or not even before they notice the marked police cruiser parked on the side of the road on First Avenue.
Beerda is out more than ever this month with his spotting scope as part of ICBC’s distracted driving campaign. The scope allows him to clearly see what a driver is doing two or three blocks up the road.
In addition to pulling over distracted drivers, which includes those eating, texting, putting on make up, or reading a newspaper, he’ll also stop those who aren’t wearing a seat belt.
With his spotting scope, Beerda can watch as drivers who are using their cell phones, drop it, then take off their seat belt to pick it up. Sometimes he can even see them mouth the words “I have to go, there’s a cop up ahead.”
People usually assume Beerda is watching for speeders and are surprised when they are pulled over.
Beerda will be setting up at high crash locations around Mission and may even be hidden at times or dressed up to blend into a setting, like a construction worker at a work site.
Mission Crime Prevention Office volunteers, who usually conduct speed watch sessions, are also focussing on distracted drivers for this campaign. If a volunteer sees someone on their phone, the registered owner of the vehicle will receive a letter stating they have been caught and if a police officer had seen them, the fine would’ve been at least $167.
“Driving is a complex task,” said Don Miller, ICBC road safety coordinator. “You’re four times more likely to be in a crash when talking on a hand held phone and 23 times more likely when texting while driving.”
Your reaction time is significantly reduced, he added, noting it’s imperative for drivers and pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings and make eye contact.
“Distracted driving is the third leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C. with an average of 91 deaths per year,” said Miller, noting there has been an increase in rear end collisions recently, mostly due to distracted driving.
Here are some tips for drivers :
• Let your phone pick up your calls and receive messages.
• Ask a passenger to take a call or text for you.
• Put your phone out of reach, such as in the trunk, or turn it off.