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Parksville police use deception to nab distracted drivers

Central Vancouver Island Traffic Service Operations NCO Cpl. Mike Elston dresses up as a highway maintenance worker at the Northwest Bay Road and Highway 19 intersection in Nanoose Bay Saturday, Feb. 13 as part of the provincewide campaign targeting distracted drivers. - CANDACE WU PHOTO
Central Vancouver Island Traffic Service Operations NCO Cpl. Mike Elston dresses up as a highway maintenance worker at the Northwest Bay Road and Highway 19 intersection in Nanoose Bay Saturday, Feb. 13 as part of the provincewide campaign targeting distracted drivers.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

CANDACE WU

news@pqbnews.com

In an effort to crack down on distracted driving, RCMP went undercover Feb. 14 in Nanoose Bay targeting those who can't seem to put down their cell phones.

Police officers dressed up as EMCON Services workers, stood up on ladders at the intersection of Northwest Bay Road and Highway 19 and inconspicuously checked to see if drivers were texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel. Undercover officers then radioed down to their in-uniform counterparts who waited at northbound and southbound check points just around the corner, one at Kinghorn Road and one at the Arlington Inn, respectively.

"People try their best to hide their offenses, so today we're blending into the surroundings by pretending to be highway maintence," said Central Vancouver Island Traffic Service Operations NCO Cpl. Mike Elston.

February is distracted driving month and RCMP all over the province conducted similar traffic campaigns. Members from Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services, ICBC, North Island Integrated Road Safety Unit, Island District Roving Traffic Unit, Oceanside Municipal Traffic Police and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement inspectors partook in the campaign.

According to Elston, 72 violation tickets were issued on Friday. Of those, 39 were for Use of an Electronic Device or Texting while Driving. Additionally, eight warnings were issued, one vehicle inspection was performed and there was one drug seizure.

Elston said distracted driving is a growing issue in traffic enforcement all around B.C.

"Distracted driving is the cause of 27 per cent of collision fatalities in the province," said Elston. "And 14 deaths were recorded on Vancouver Island alone last year."

The campaign specifically looked to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of distracted driving.

"We want to remind people that just because you are stopped at an intersection doesn't mean you can check your e-mail," said Elston. "If you're holding your cell phone and it's on speaker phone, that doesn't make it a hands-free device.

Elston added that if your phone is in your hand, even if it isn't on, you can still get a ticket.

He also noted that "manipulating" your GPS is also an offence.

Use of an Electronic Device violation ticket is $167.

"Ultimately, it's all about safety. We lived for hundreds of years without cell phones," said Elston. "People can wait a few minutes before checking their phone."

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