Officers catch plenty of violators in distracted driving blitz

More than 3,000 talking on phones or using other hand-held devices

A hands-free device is the only legal way to talk on the phone while driving – except for Learner and Novice drivers who are banned from all use of electronic devices.

Police nabbed more than 3,000 drivers using cellphones and other handheld electronic devices during a month-long distracted driving enforcement blitz in February.

Officers heard plenty of excuses – none of them good ones.

“I was just on my way to buy a Bluetooth [hands-free kit],” one driver said.

Another was afraid of missing an important call and one woman told police she was “just telling my husband to call back later because I’m driving.”

RCMP E Division Traffic Services Supt. Mike Diack said it’s disappointing to see such a high number of motorists violating B.C.’s year-old distracted driving law.

“The excuses won’t mean anything if you are involved in a collision that seriously injures or kills somebody because you made a phone call or sent a text message,” he said.

The only valid reason for making a handheld call is to call for emergency assistance, he said.

More than 2,200 of the distracted drivers were busted and given $167 fines in the Lower Mainland and the stats don’t count drivers caught by general duty officers who weren’t part of the blitz.

Despite the new law, RCMP say distracted driving was a contributing factor in 104 fatal crashes in B.C. last year and is blamed in another 5,000 injuries each year.

Forty-five of the deaths linked to inattentive or distracted driving happened in the Lower Mainland, while 30 were in southeastern B.C, 15 were in the north and 14 were on Vancouver Island.

Besides the $167 fine for handheld use of an electronic device while driving, violators can also be given three ICBC driver penalty points if they’re caught texting or emailing.

Drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program are banned from using all electronic devices, even with hands-free options.

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