In the past seven months, Ridge Meadows RCMP have issued 536 tickets to drivers using their cellphones while driving, a number that’s gone up significantly since last year.
From June to December of 2010, local police gave out 199 tickets to drivers using an electronic device while driving, making it clear more drivers are putting themselves in harms way by ignoring the law.
“Basically, enforcement has increased because using an electronic device while driving has been determined to be a causal factor in crashes,” Cpl. Dale Somerville said. “In 2010, 48 per cent of fatal crashes in the Lower Mainland involved some sort of distraction to drivers as one of the contributing factors.”
The numbers are linked to a new poll that shows B.C. drivers overwhelmingly believe talking or texting behind the wheel on a mobile phone is dangerous, yet 16 per cent admit talking recently on a handheld phone and nine per cent admit they texted or emailed while driving.
The Ipsos Reid survey conducted for ICBC found 87 per cent of respondents believe texting or emailing while driving is one of the riskiest behaviours on the road, and 50 per cent believe talking on a handheld phone is as risky as drunk driving.
The results of the poll were released after RCMP said they ticketed 2,043 Lower Mainland drivers over a six-week period this summer – nearly twice as many as the 1,197 tickets for $167 issued in the same period in 2010.
RCMP Insp. Norm Gaumont said the ticket blitz showed lots of people continue to text or talk on their phones – even 18 months after B.C. brought in its distracted driving law.
“It’s a new phenomenon that’s come upon us – a young generation that are really tied to their devices and they can’t let them go,” he said.
“I see it every day. People are still using their phones, still texting. They’re looking down at their knees.”
Distracted or inattentive driving is the number one cause of 45 per cent of fatal crashes in the Lower Mainland, Gaumont said, adding it’s the worst rate of any region in the province.
“It really causes devastation on our road ways,” he said.
Gaumont said another RCMP ticket blitz in September will again target illegal use of electronic devices and failure to use seat belts.
More than half of drivers surveyed in the Ipsos poll reported seeing other drivers break the ban on handheld device use several times a day.
The top excuses for using a hand-held phone while driving?
Forty-two per cent said it was a very short call or they use the speaker function.
Others said they pulled over after answering (37 per cent) or they were stopped at a red light (29 per cent).
Still others said they don’t have a hands-free system or that “it’s simply a force of habit.”
“Many people don’t realize that it’s also illegal to take a call or text while waiting in traffic or stopped for a red light,” said Fiona Temple, ICBC’s director of road safety.
“You lose 50 per cent of what’s going on around you when you’re talking or texting on a hand-held device. This makes you four times more likely to get in a crash.”