Mounties are cracking down on distracted drivers for the entire month of February, and warning that cell phones aren’t the only way to wind up with a ticket.

Drivers who are caught violating road rules – like swerving, speeding or changing lanes unsafely – while holding food or carrying a dog in their lap can be dinged $368 for driving without due care and attention.

“The dog will prevent you from reaching the controls,” said Cpl. Robert McDonald of the RCMP Lower Mainland Traffic Services. “Changing lanes without wanting to change lanes, [being] unable to turn properly, not using your signaling device because the dog is on your lap… that’s what we’re looking at.”

The offense also carries six ICBC penalty points. It’s not against the law to eat while driving or carry a dog, however, provided that it doesn’t prevent safe driving.

Mounties say talking on a cell phone remains the most common driving distraction, and they’re still seeing a lot of confusion when it comes to the rules.

Cpl. McDonald said many are unaware that using a device’s speakerphone function while holding it up to your chest still counts as an infraction – and carries the usual $167 fine.

Even a properly-mounted hands-free device can be trouble if you’re pressing too many buttons.

“It’s only one-button activation. So if your phone is mounted on your vehicle, you can touch one button,” McDonald said.

All electronics, including hands-free devices, are also prohibited for anyone in the Graduated License Program.

Using handheld devices was banned in B.C. in January 2010, and police have issued 105,972 violation tickets since.

Mounties say the problem plays into a shocking number of serious and even fatal crashes. Last year, 30 per cent of deadly accidents involved distracted driving, as did 37 per cent of crashes that resulted in serious injuries.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s St. John Alexander