As RCMP Cpl. Lee Dyson writes up a distracted driving ticket on Evans Parkway on Thursday, he lifts his head to see a vehicle cruising past with a for-sale sign on the windshield, another infraction.
Const. Mike Sabulsky pulls over a vehicle in which the passenger is not wearing his seatbelt and, after clocking a woman speeding with his radar gun, Const. Chris Boden steps out onto the road to urge her to slow down.
The three can't keep up with the number of driving infractions during a half-hour period the Times joined the Mounties on a traffic enforcement blitz.
On Thursday, the RCMP, the provincial government and ICBC launched a monthlong distracted driving campaign.
Dyson is head of the Chilliwack Traffic Services unit. He was out with the two other officers and Mike Weightman, local road safety co-ordinator for ICBC. They were pulling over distracted drivers and handing out $167 fines. The officers were assisted by two Chilliwack Speed Watch volunteers and an undercover officer who pointed out violations.
On average, 91 people are killed each year in B.C. due to driver distractions, which includes using hand-held electronic devices behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is the third leading cause of fatal car crashes in the province behind speeding and impaired driving.
"With vacations over and kids back in school, our roads are busy again, which is why we're asking drivers to leave the phone alone and stay focused on the road," said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a press release. "You're four times more likely to crash when talking on a hand-held phone behind the wheel, and 23 times more likely to get in a crash if you text while driving."
A 2012 Ipsos Reid survey, conducted on behalf of ICBC, showed that B.C. drivers consider texting while driving to be just as risky as drinking and driving, yet 40 per cent of those who own cellphones admit they've used their hand-held phone while driving.
In a two-hour period on Thursday, police issued seven tickets for seatbelt violations, six for using an electronic device while driving, two for speeding, two for vehicle defects and one for operating contrary to driver's licence restrictions.
But it wasn't all fines and warnings Thursday on Evans Parkway. Dyson shared a laugh with one driver and his passenger after Speed Watch volunteers called in a driver on cellphone. Dyson pulled the vehicle over only to find the man on the phone was in the left-hand seat, but it was a right-hand drive SUV.
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