SURREY â€” If the number of traffic tickets handed out during a distracted driving crackdown in September are any indication, the driving public does not seem to be getting the iMessage.
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet said the Traffic Services Division handed out 257 tickets during September, nearing a staggering 3,700 violations for 2014. The sheer number of tickets indicate that enforcement is not putting a dent in reducing distracted driving.
"It’s something we haven’t seen go away," said Paquet. "For every driver that gets it â€” that you can no longer drive while distracted â€” there’s plenty of people that are willing to take that chance."
Paquet said it’s not that police are asking people to do anything that requires an extra effort. He suggested drivers simply put the distractions away or pull over to the side of the road if it’s something that urgently requires attention.
"Distracted driving is a conscious decision by an operator of a motor vehicle or motor bike or truck or whatever it is. It is a conscious decision to put yourself and others at risk."
According to Paquet, "common sense has not worked" so police have had to step up enforcement.
Since distracted driving became an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act on Jan. 1, 2010, Surrey RCMP have issued over 14,000 tickets.
The problem is certainly not isolated to Surrey. According to the Langley RCMP, officers handed out 872 distracted driving tickets during their September safety blitz. And Vancouver Police handed out over 1,000 tickets, well on pace to reach their annual tally of 9,000.
Paquet added that some drivers think they’re safe at a red light to glance down at their laps for a brief cellular update. But tickets can be handed out in those instances as well.
"You’re still in care and control of a motor vehicle with all the responsibilities that that brings with it."
Paquet said intersections are particularly dangerous and drivers need to be extra cautious and aware of their surroundings.
"Intersections are where most of our serious accidents occur. There’s pedestrians, there’s other vehicles, you have to pay attention to light cycle, pedestrian cycles, and school is back so there’s children. There’s just so much going on, you cannot afford to say I’ll take chance and I’ll just glance at my phone."
Distracted driving is now the second-leading cause of all deaths on the roads in B.C., according to the province’s auto insurer ICBC.