Mountie hides in bucket truck to catch distracted drivers
Mounties in Chilliwack are thinking outside the box – or in this case, inside the bucket – as they work to enforce the province's distracted driving laws.
The local traffic services unit borrowed a bucket truck from the City of Chilliwack on Wednesday, and put an officer in the elevated bucket. The officer was raised up to power line level to monitor traffic at the intersection of Luckakuck Way and Vedder Road.
Wearing a hard hat and overalls, passersby may have mistaken the officer for a hydro worker or city employee if they didn't notice his bright green jacket with the word "police" on the back.
The unusual operation was part of a month-long crackdown on distracted drivers, during which Mounties tried a variety of strategies. Last week, RCMP officers travelled around the city on public transit while watching drivers passing by.
"We watched from places where police would not be expected. Once sighted, the distracted driver was stopped and issued a ticket by our traffic officer," Const. Jaden Courtney said in a statement.
During the month of March, the Chilliwack and Fraser Valley RCMP issued 36 violations to motorists using electronics like cellphones while driving.
On the North Shore, North Vancouver RCMP and West Vancouver police officers have teamed up to target drivers approaching the Lions Gate Bridge.
In an operation dubbed "Project Sweep," officers from both forces are handing out tickets to anyone caught driving while distracted. A North Vancouver RCMP corporal estimated the force had ticketed close to 50 people this month.
And the tickets aren't cheap. Fines for a distracted driving violation more than doubled last summer, costing those caught in the act $368 for an offence. Motorists also get three or four penalties to their driving record, and on first infraction they have to pay a $175 premium to ICBC.
"We're just trying to puncture that consciousness with the driver that it is an issue," West Vancouver Const. Jeff Palmer told CTV News.
"It is a leading cause of death and injury on our roads, and it boils to a simple thing: People really need to break that habit."
Distracted driving legislation took effect seven years ago, Palmer said, but some drivers still aren't getting the message even with heightened fines.
"Really the penalty people ought to focus on is how much potential there is for injury… You can do a lot of damage."
Palmer said the bridge and the roads leading up to it are high-collision zones, and police are trying to get drivers to focus on their surroundings.
"It's just not worth it. A text, an LOL, a cute little message or something on your Facebook is simply not worth the risk of the damage and the negative impact you can cause in somebody's life."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald