EDITORIAL: Texting, driving an either-or choice

The Oceanside RCMP, along with police detachments around B.C., are pulling out the stops to find and fine drivers who persist in handling their cellphones while behind the wheel.

But while the March campaign of education and enforcement is drawing to a close, this is a priority that deserves year-round attention.

After all, ICBC statistics show that, on average, 78 people die every year in crashes where distracted driving is a contributing factor.

The tickets for such an offence — now adding up to $368 and four penalty points when caught the first time — are being handed out during a targeted campaign this month. And RCMP are finding new ways of catching offenders all over the province, from pulling up on bicycles beside occupied texters to sitting in buses so they can look into cars of those trying to keep their phones low while they are in use.

Certainly, there will be those who will argue against such action. Some will suggest police should be going after the “real criminals” — the ones who have been conducting late-night break-ins in our neighbourhoods and robbing our convenience stores. Others will claim they are no more distracted making a call or sending a text than drivers who are simply sipping coffee or chatting with a passenger.

The former is a blatant case of whataboutery, the latter a matter already decided by our provincial leaders and courts. Regardless, drivers must abide by the laws of the land or face the consequences.

For practical evidence that distracted driving is a real issue of real concern — rather than simply reading statistics — we suggest detractors take a drive down a busy street or, a walk. One usually doesn’t have to venture far to spot a driver who is more engaged with personal communication or activity than with the rules of the road.

Just in the last week, we received a letter from a local cyclist who stopped at a marked crosswalk in Parksville, dismounted, activated a flashing crossing warning sign, then started into the crosswalk before jumping back to safety as three vehicles blew through the pedestrian crossing.

Two of the drivers, the fortunate cyclist said, were using personal devices as they motored under the flashing lights.

How many of these narrow escapes occur every day that we do not hear about? One is too many.

Put down the phone, or get off the road. That choice is free. If you let the police make the decision for you it will cost. But the fine is far cheaper than a human life.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News/Black Press

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