Cops finally bite down on cell phone use while driving

Cell phones, seatbelts and single occupancy vehicles in the HOV lane.

Cell phones, seatbelts and single occupancy vehicles in the HOV lane.

The three no-nos of local traffic are

being targeted by the RCMP this month as the force reminds drivers that the rules governing all three are not suggestions, they’re the law.

And it’s about time.

While the province’s distracted driving legislation banning the use of hand-held cell phones and iPods behind the wheel has been in place just over a year, the message, it would seem, has still not gotten through to many drivers.

Any day of the week on Kelowna streets, motorists can be seen steering with one hand as they hold a phone in the other. And sometimes, they even do it in the HOV lane while not wearing a seat belt.

So the cops decided it’s time to show offending drivers some tough love.

They announced earlier this week that a crackdown is underway.

But to succeed, RCMP officers will have to be out and about to catch law-breaking cell phone chatterers in the act.

In the case of HOV lane violators, officers will have to cruise up and down Harvey ready to pounce, wielding the might of their ticket books.

Unlike other communities across the B.C. where initial compliance with the prohibition against hand-held devices for drivers was said to be high, Kelowna drivers never appeared to fully embrace the wonderful world of Bluetooth.

While places like Saanich on Vancouver Island have seen the number drop since the implementation of the law, from what I have seen driving Harvey Avenue during the weekly rush hour, the numbers were never that high here in the first place.

According to recent surveys a majority of B.C. drivers agree with taking phones out of the hands of drivers. But support and action, it seems, are too different things.

That could be argued as OK if chatty drivers were only a danger to themselves. But, when you are piloting a moving vehicle that weights a ton, the damage you are likely to do to someone else on the road is immense.

And then there’s the question of effectiveness. How effective is a law that is either not enforced, or not seen to be enforced?

The crackdown is appropriate and hopefully will be ongoing. But it will take time to change public perception about the dangers of driving and using hand-held devices.

But the experience with drinking and driving has shown it can be done.

The key will be making it socially unacceptable. And that will take a lot more time and effort.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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