Police ready to crack down on cell phone texting drivers

A year after drivers were told to put down their cell phones while driving, police now plan to step up enforcement to ensure those who just haven’t been able to stop texting while driving get the message about the need to focus on the road.

A year after drivers were told to put down their cell phones while driving, police now plan to step up enforcement to ensure those who just haven’t been able to stop texting while driving get the message about the need to focus on the road.

The RCMP have picked February to launch a campaign against distracted driving, saying that last year, distracted driving contributed to nearly a third of all fatal collisions in RCMP jurisdictions.

There were a total of 104 distracted driving fatalities in 2010 in B.C., with 30 of those being in the southeast region of the province, which includes Kelowna.

“We certainly want to reduce these numbers drastically throughout the province,” said Kelowna RCMP Const. Steve Holmes.

“Operating a vehicle is challenging enough with traffic flow, time constraints, weather conditions, passengers, distracting thoughts, operating on-board vehicle equipment etc.,” said Holmes.

“By adding the additional distractions of other electronic equipment, the task of driving can become too complex, resulting in some of the tragedies and damage we see on our roadways today.”

He believes a lot of people have gotten the message since the law against chatting on your cell without a hands-free device came into effect, but many are still texting and checking their PDAs.

They’re the people the Central Okanagan Traffic Services will be focusing on in an effort to improve road safety.

“Maybe after one or two tickets they’ll comply,” said Holmes. “It might take 10 or 15 tickets, it might take more drastic measures. But that’s what we’re focused on doing, because it’s about the road safety, it’s about reducing crashes and fatalities and damage as a result of people being distracted.”

Those who are caught driving and using cellular phones that are not “hands free” will face a $167 fine. Those caught texting or emailing while driving face the same fine and may also receive three penalty points against their driver’s licence. 

Drivers in the Graduated Licencing Program cannot use any electronic device, including “hands free” cell phones.

If caught, they will receive the $167 fine and 3 penalty points.

The only exception, to any of the above circumstances, is if the motorist has pulled over and the vehicle is stopped, said Holmes.

cweirda@kelownacapnews.com