Vehicles stopped in queue at a drive-thru in Parksville on March 10, 2021. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Vehicles stopped in queue at a drive-thru in Parksville on March 10, 2021. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Vancouver Island police ramp up patrols to hunt for distracted drivers

40 tickets already issued this month in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

If you’ve ever had the urge to check your cellphone notifications while waiting in a drive-thru lane, be advised that doing so could cost you $368.

One PQB News reader reported spotting a police officer with a telephoto lens watching drivers in a lineup. Sgt. Robert Haney with BC Highway Patrol told the PQB News that no violation tickets were handed out, just a warning.

March is designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and police across the province are ramping up patrols to check for inattentive and distracted drivers.

Haney said approximately 40 tickets have already been issued since the beginning of the month to distracted drivers in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

READ MORE: Victoria police hand out nearly $17,000 in distracted driving tickets in five hours

Last year, from January to December, 118 tickets were issued for the use of cellphones while driving.

“It’s rampant out here,” said Haney, noting that one of his officers issued 12 tickets in a single day alone.

“People see us in our marked police vehicles – and what’s worse than using it in their hand, they put it in their lap and look down. Then they’re not even looking at the road. They figure if we see them driving with it in their hands, they’re going to get charged,” he said.

“It’s a divided attention test when you’re driving a motor vehicle because your brain is doing numerous things at the same time.”

When it comes to drive-thru windows, however, drivers are usually given a bit of grace. While still illegal to use your phone at a drive-thru, since the Motor Vehicle Act considers parking lots and drive-thrus as part of the roadway and still subject to enforcement, Haney said police don’t enforce it as stringently as they possibly could.

READ MORE: Tips for drivers: What counts as distracted driving?

“If the wheels are rotating, it is an offence,” he said. “If your wheels are not rotating and you’re in park, you can use your cellphone all day long. But as soon as your wheels rotate, you can’t even have it in your hand. Because then it becomes a problem.”

As outlined by the Motor Vehicle Act, the fine amount for a distracted driving offence is $368, along with four penalty points.

ICBC issued a press release on Feb. 25 that stated, on average, 10 people are killed every year in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island. This claim was based on police data gathered between 2015 and 2019.

According to ICBC statistics gathered from 2019, the most recent data available, 28 per cent of crashes caused by distracted driving were fatal, second only to speeding at 30 per cent, and greater than impaired driving by seven per cent.

In ICBC’s Graduated Licensing Program, class 5 or 7 (L and N) drivers cannot use any personal electronic devices while operating a vehicle, even with a hands-free system.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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