Wednesday July 21, 2010

Local News


Distracted Drivers Catch Cops Attention

316 tickets dished out in the Lower Mainland



e're a nation of cell phone users and asking people to change habits is a magnanimous task but BCAA says most people have adapted well to the new distracted driver law that's been in effect for nearly 6-months. Despite that, tickets are still being handed out regularly. And although the statistics are in, the police say it's still to early to draw any conclusions on trends.

Lower Mainland RCMP said that as of June 8 there have been 316 tickets issued for the use of electronic devices while driving. As of June 24, another 39 tickets were issued. This statistics are for the LMD and does note include figures from the Vancouver Police Department or other parts of BC.

There are no RCMP statistics available about what type of devices got drivers in trouble and ticketed but that information would be available in the near future.

"The RCMP system is being updated and will be capable of capturing offence specific statistics fairly soon," said Lennea Durant, BC Traffic Safety Foundation, in an e-mail to the Voice.

Research indicates that driver who chat on the phone are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, while texting leads to at least a 20-fold increase in crashes.

In late June to early July, BCAA polled over 7500 drivers for compliance rates and found that two-thirds said they talked on a cell phone while driving before the new regulations, and of those, 84 per cent used a hand-held phone while 9 per cent used a hands-free device.

After the BC law was enstated, 21 per cent said in the survey that they have switched to hands-free. 35 per cent said they now pull over to make or take a call, and 28 per cent said they have stopped using a phone while driving altogether. The remaining 6 per cent still refuse to put the cell phone down while behind the wheel.

BCAA is is pleased with the results and the ban is starting to pay off dividends with fewer accidents.

“It appears that most B.C. drivers are getting the message that using a hand-held communications device while driving is distracting and dangerous,” says Trace Acres, BCAA’s Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations. “It is particularly encouraging to see the significant number of drivers who either pull off the road to make or take a call, or are no longer using a phone at all.”

Despite the high number of tickets issued, most drivers have got the message and use a hands-free device, pull off the road when using a cell phone or have stopped using them all together.

Survey respondents said they still see others drivers using cell phones and feel the chance of getting nabbed using one behind the wheel is minimal.

“Some drivers, it seems, are still willing to risk the safety of themselves and others, and risk getting caught for the sake of making a call or sending a text,” adds Acres. “Although the risk of getting caught for using a hand-held is perceived to be low, BCAA is confident that as more offenders are caught and word gets out, more will think twice before reaching for their hand-held device.”

The survery also found that reading a book or newspaper, or texting using a cell phone or PDA, were cited by survey respondents as the most dangerous driver distractions - followed by personal grooming, talking on a hand-held phone and holding a pet in your lap.

As for other distracting behaviours behind the wheel, 71 per cent say they see others eating or drinking more than once a week, 41 per cent say they see someone holding a pet in their lap more than once a week, and 34 per cent say they see others performing personal grooming (styling hair, shaving, applying make-up) more than once a week. On the other hand, only two per cent of survey respondents admitted to either personal grooming or holding a pet in their lap, more than once a week.

As defined by the RCMP, BC law states that:

• drivers cannot send or read emails or text messages;

• drivers cannot make or take calls unless using a hands-free device;

• drivers cannot hold or operate any electronic device;

• learners and novice drivers or graduated license holders (GLH), cannot operate handheld or hands-free devices.


“Using” an electronic device includes:

• holding the device;

• operating one of its functions (i.e. pressing buttons);

• talking on the device;

• watching the device.

Electronic devices include: cell phones, Blackberry, and other handheld devices that have telephone capabilities and/or on which you can send text messages or e-mails; I-Pods and other audio players; GPS systems; hand microphones or televisions.

Drivers are allowed to use hands-free technology that is activated by a single touch button, or when it is safe to do so, pull over and stop their vehicle before they talk or email.

Graduated license holders who cannot use any electronic device within the meaning of the legislation will receive a violation ticket with a specified penalty of $167 dollars and 3 penalty points will be assessed to their driver’s license.

Drivers using an electronic device that is not allowed by the legislation but does not involve emailing or texting i.e. talking on a cell phone, the fine is $167 dollars and no penalty points.

Drivers using an electronic device to communicate with another person or another device by e-mail or other text based message, or by dialing face $167 dollars and 3 penalty points.

Drivers are allowed to use a cell phone if an emergency is being reported to the police, fire department or ambulance service.

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