ICBC has wrapped up its distracted driving campaign for March, but local police say they will keep targeting drivers who use their phones while stopped at intersections.
“Many drivers are getting the message (to put down handheld devices while driving), however, there are still many drivers that think they can hide their phones and still use them while driving,” said Mission RCMP Const. Alyn Beerda,who frequently pulls up beside vehicles stopped at red lights to see if the driver has a phone in hand.
Last month police and volunteers teamed up with ICBC to enforce and educate distracted drivers on the Cedar Valley Connector. The number of tickets handed out has not yet been released by Mounties.
Handheld devices are not just cell phones, explained Beerda, noting motorists are also forbidden to handle GPS systems and MP3 players while driving.
“If you’re wearing headphones, you’re only allowed, by law, to put one in your ear,” said Beerda. “It’s so you can hear horns, sirens, and be more aware of your surroundings.”
“Distracted driving is the second leading cause of fatalities in the province,” said Don Miller, ICBC road safety coordinator for Abbotsford/Mission, adding only impaired driving ranks higher. “You’re four times more likely to be in a crash if you’re on the phone.”
According to the insurance company, on average, there are 88 fatalities each year in B.C. related to distracted driving.
Miller offered the following tips for road users:
• Leave your phone alone. No call or text is worth risking your life or others. Let calls go to voicemail and ignore your text messages while driving.
• Pull over to make or receive a call. If you have to take a call, pull over if it’s safe to do so or use your phone in hands-free mode; stay focused on the road and keep the conversation brief.
• Plan to avoid distraction. Turn your cellphone off or place it in the trunk of your car so you won’t be tempted to talk, email or text when you’re on the road.
• Assign a designated texter. Ask your passengers to make or receive calls and texts for you.
• Keep your hands off. Hands-free means a bluetooth or wired headset or speakerphone. If you’re using a headset or headphones, remember that drivers can only wear them in one ear.