Police officers gave out something other than lucky charms on St. Patricks’ Day.
Mounties issued 100 violation tickets during an annual undercover distracted driving campaign set up in Nanoose Bay — the efforts are part of a province-wide campaign to curb texting and talking on the phone while behind the wheel. Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services (CVITS) Cpl. Mike Elston was clad in highway maintenance threads perched on an EMCON dump truck (another officer was in a back hoe) near the intersection of Northwest Bay Road and Highway 19.
Elston — equipped with binoculars, a note pad and radio — was looking for distracted drivers.
“The use of those vehicles allowed the police to stay hidden in plain view and provided a view inside of vehicles from an elevated position which allowed us to see people using devices held low and out of sight,” he explained. “There was no shortage of people seen texting, talking or using a handheld device, most of the time with the device held low so that they thought they weren’t being seen.” Elston, and other 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.
“If you come up to a red light or a stop sign that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to start using an electronic device,” he said.
ICBC road safety co ordinator Caroline Robinson said distracted driving is the second leading cause of car-related fatalities in B.C. Annually, she said, 12 people are killed on Vancouver Island alone in distracted driving related accidents.
Of the 100 tickets, 27 offenses were issued for use of an electronic device while driving, 15 for speeding and 18 for an illegal window tint. Elston said there was also one drug seizure, one prohibited weapon seizure (brass knuckles) and to the surprise of police, one vehicle was caught carrying a substantial amount of unsecured, corrosive material with no placards or indications of the material, nor any training in relation to the transportation of the goods.
Elston reminds drivers they are not allowed to operate an electronic device unless they are stopped and parked on the side of the road, However, he said devices may be used in a hands-free or one-touch fashion. The penalty for distracted driving is a $167 fine and three penalty points.
Ten members from Oceanside RCMP, CVITS, North Island Integrated Road Safety Unit and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement helped with the campaign.