Roughly half a dozen RCMP officers were on Lakeshore Road Wednesday as part of a distracted driving blitz.
The blitz was part of a joint campaign between Kelowna RCMP and ICBC to promote the message of leaving phones alone while driving and enforcing the rules on those breaking them, as March is Distracted Driving month in BC.
“Our volunteers are counting the drivers they observe violating those laws, and they have signage out here reminding drivers to leave their phones alone,” described RCMP Constable Jesse O’Donaghey. “Then just down the road there are half a dozen enforcement officers enforcing those laws. So if they are ignoring the message and continuing to operate their vehicle while talking on their phone or texting or other things, they’ll get the fine.”
The distracted driving fine is $167, and O’Donaghey explained just what constitutes distracted driving.
“Just various uses of a cell phone,” he said. “Texting, accepting calls, checking your emails, changing a song or even dialling a number. Distracted driving could also be considered putting on makeup, or eating food, or reading a newspaper or a book, or shaving. We’ve seen a lot of those things, and I’m sure other people have too.”
Additionally, O’Donaghey noted using a map on your phone is also not okay if it causes you to physically handle your phone. However, mounted GPS or phones dashboards are okay as they are in the driver’s line of sight while not obstructing their view of the road. With that said, he added it’s only okay as long as you aren’t handling them while driving.
“If you need to answer your call or you have an important message you’re expecting, pull over, don’t put others at risk,” O’Donaghey said. “Pull over and check that message, and when you’re certain you’re done with that message continue on. Or delegate someone in your car, a passenger as the designated texture, like a designated driver. Just keep your eyes on the road, because that half a second can be deadly.”
Last year, 31 people were killed by distracted drivers in the Southern Interior. O’Donaghey noted that’s a number that needs to come down, which is why RCMP enforcement officers are often performing activities such as the one on Wednesday, where they fined 37 drivers in three hours.