Burnaby Mounties launch distracted driving enforcement campaign

If you’ve passed the spotter in regular clothes up the road and you have your cellphone in your hand, it’s already too late.

That’s what a number of Burnaby motorists found out the hard way Thursday morning, as local RCMP along with ICBC and transit police launched a distracted driving enforcement and education campaign in the community.

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On this day, the cops were set up on Griffiths Way between Southpoint Drive and 14th Avenue in what’s considered District 3 in the city.

And within minutes, police were busy pulling over people for distracted driving.

Staff Sgt. Gerard Sokolowski, of Burnaby RCMP Traffic Services, noted the focus of the campaign is to make the streets safer and get people to stop using their phones behind the wheel.

In June, the province increased the penalties for distracted driving fines to $368. Add on another $175 for four driver penalty points, and touching that cellphone will cost $543.

In the three months since the fines went up, Burnaby Mounties have handed out 1,232 distracted driving tickets, compared to 2,138 in the first five months of 2016.

Sokolowski suggested police are seeing fewer people using phones, but some drivers are being caught more than once.

“We do have some people that are so accustomed to utilizing their cellphones that even when they’re behind the wheel they still continue to use it,” he told the NOW.

He noted in a typical blitz, police will issue between 20 and 30 tickets, adding there are still people not getting the message to put the phone down when they are behind the wheel.

Tom Webster, a road safety coordinator with ICBC, suggested it’s too early to say whether the new fine scheme is getting people to put down their phones.

“We’re hoping that it will maybe be a start, the new laws come in, and it’s a much more expensive fine if you get caught. We’re hoping that will motivate people to change their behaviour,” he said.

According to ICBC, one in four deaths on B.C. roads involves distracted driving. Of the 800 crashes a day around the province, many are caused by distracted driving.

As for the month-long campaign, Webster noted this is the time of year where the streets are busy with kids going back to school.  

“A distracted driver really puts them at risk, so if someone is on their phone they might be entirely unaware of what’s going on around them,” he said.

The campaign also means drivers can expect to see police on the road around Burnaby looking for distracted drivers. So the advice from the police is if you don’t want to get a hefty fine, put the phone away.

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