Despite stiff penalties for talking on a cellphone and/or texting while driving

Stiff fines for calling while driving

Drinking and driving now faces stiff competition for the dumbest-things-to-do-while-operating-a-vehicle award.

  • Oct. 12, 2011 8:00 p.m.

Drinking and driving now faces stiff competition for the dumbest-things-to-do-while-operating-a-vehicle award.

Over three quarters of people responding to a recent ICBC-endorsed Ipsos Reid survey believed texting or emailing while driving is just as dangerous as being intoxicated, and about nine per cent admitted to doing it themselves. More than half said they had seen drivers using their hand-held devices “several times a day.”

RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve Wright said it’s “still a major problem,” and police continue to write tickets on a regular basis. Cellphone use while driving was banned in B.C. in January 2010 and Wright said the message still hasn’t gotten through yet.

“I don’t think it’s improved since the legislations been passed. (We’ve written) dozens of tickets since a year ago.”

Wright said they aren’t specifically targeting drivers on their cellphones, but usually officers stationed on the side of the road will catch people while looking for violations like speeding or non-seatbelt use. He added drivers texting is becoming more common, and is even worse than talking on the phone.

“I think (it) is probably more dangerous because it’s taking their eyes off the road completely when they’re doing that.”

Another problem that has spawned is drivers trying to be sneaky.

“Now what’s happening is people are driving, trying to hide the fact that they’re talking on the phone, which makes it an even worse situation.”

He said he’s seen people duck their heads down while holding a phone to their ear and, effectively, driving half-blind for a few seconds.

Excuses given by those that admitted to the guilty act included “I use the speaker function,” “It was a very short call,” “I pulled over after answering the call,” and “I was stopped at a red light,” according to an ICBC press release.

Use of any electronic device while driving is prohibited even when stopped for a red light, and can result in a $167 fine and three points on your license.

 

Excuses, excuses. That’s what police across the province heard last month from B.C. drivers who were caught using a hand-held device while driving.

Here are the top excuses police heard from drivers who were caught using a hand-held device while driving:

• This is a bogus law. This is the attitude that needs to change.

• It was my boss on the phone – I had to answer it. In B.C., crashes are the number-one cause of traumatic work-related deaths, according to WorkSafeBC statistics.

• I wasn’t using it – I just like to hold it. Anything – whether it is a garage door opener or a hairbrush – that takes your attention from the road is a distraction and can impact your ability to react to the unexpected.

• Sorry officer, I didn’t see you trying to pull me over because I was on my phone. If you don’t notice a police car trying to pull you over, how would you notice nearby pedestrians and cyclists?

• But it was an emergency call to my wedding planner! A real emergency would be if your vehicle flipped over in a ditch because you were distracted at the wheel by your phone.

• My Bluetooth died. If your Bluetooth dies, pull over, change your voicemail to let callers know you’re on the road and you’ll return their call when it’s safe to do so.

• Driver: I’m using my speakerphone. Police officer: No, you’re holding your phone in one hand and steering with the other. Hands-free doesn’t equal speakerphone.

• I’m not driving; I was stopped at a red light. This misconception needs to end right now: the law applies even when you’re stopped at a light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

• I wasn’t talking, I was checking my messages. Under the law, drivers can’t use hand-held electronics while driving – that includes checking voice mail, making music selections or looking up phone numbers. Let calls go to voicemail and call back later when it’s safe to do so. Better yet, turn off your cellphone and put it in the trunk or back seat to avoid the temptation.

• I was just checking the time. There are no excuses for preventable tragedies. Imagine saying this to the emergency personnel and loved ones of someone seriously injured because of your carelessness.

 

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