RCMP, ICBC check for distracted drivers

Sgt. Matt LaBelle of the Prince George RCMP’s municipal traffic services section warns motorists to put their cellphones away. Bill Phillips photo
Sgt. Matt LaBelle of the Prince George RCMP’s municipal traffic services section warns motorists to put their cellphones away. Bill Phillips photo


BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Don’t drive distracted.

Some Prince George drivers learned that lesson the hard way as the RCMP, with the help of ICBC and Citizen’s on Patrol, were out checking for distracted drivers along Foothills Boulevard Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re using this location here on Foothills to target people who are using their cellphones, having dogs on their laps, having too much cargo, having headphones on and other moving violations,” said

Even though it was a bit rainy, the RCMP and volunteers, were busy checking vehicles for a couple of hours and judging by the number pulled over during the short time the media was present, they were busy all afternoon.

It’s been a couple of years since the province increased the fines and penalty points for distracted drivers, however some drivers still don’t get the message.

“They know they shouldn’t be using their cellphone and yet they’re still using it,” LaBelle said.

He pointed out that using a cellphone, even while stopped at a stoplight, is still and offence. And while cellphones are the primary reason for distracted driving, people do drive with pets on lap or children distracting them as well, which is just as bad, if not worse.

“You have to focus on the road ahead of you,” he said. “If you are focused on a text or tweet, you’re not focused on the road.”

Distracted driving is now the second leading cause of accidents and injury on British Columbia roads and highways, behind high risk driving. Impaired driving, which was the primary cause, has moved down the list to No. 3.

“When we look at the numbers provincially, we’ve seen a real change in driver behaviour,” said Doug MacDonald, ICBC Road Safety and Community Coordinator. “Cellphones weren’t that big of a deal because most people didn’t have them. Now they seem to be a daily part of everyone’s life.”

Events, such as Wednesday’s road check, is all about trying to get people to change their driving behaviour, said MacDonald.

“Put the cellphone down,” he said. “What we’re reminding people now is to leave your cellphone alone. Turn it off … change your voice message, let people know you’re driving.”

He added if other people are in the car, let them do the texting and leave the driver to driving. Hands-free units, he said, are safer but are still a distraction.

He also stressed that those who think they can check their texts at stop signs or while at red lights are still distracted.

“That’s where we see a lot of rear-end crashes,” he said. “People are putting their heads down, looking at their cellphones, doing the head-bob thing. We see it at intersections around town. Put the cellphone down, it’s not that important.”

Members of the RCMP municipal traffic section check for distracted drivers and speeders along Foothills Boulevard. Bill Phillips photo
Members of the RCMP municipal traffic section check for distracted drivers and speeders along Foothills Boulevard. Bill Phillips photo