Thousands defy driver cell phone ban
Thousands of British Columbians are defying the seven-month-old law that bans drivers from talking on their phones.
A new report shows that an average of 3,000 tickets a month were handed out to cell phone abusers from March to May, according to the Insurance Corporation of B.C. In February, a slow month due to the Olympics, 2,400 tickets were given out to drivers.
Those figures show that some B.C. drivers have turned a deaf ear to the new law, says ICBC's director of road safety, Nicholas Jimenez. He'd like to see hand-held phone use while driving become stigmatized.
"There are a lot of people who are still doing this, that haven't bought into the idea that this is risky behaviour," says Jimenez. "We want [passengers] to really express the fact that this isn't cool, ‘I don't accept this… I don't want you doing this.' Or another driver, [say] ‘It's not what we want people to do on the road.'"
ICBC is rolling out a new campaign aimed at educating drivers on the hazards of driving while using a hand-held device. There are plans to release a graphic new television commercial next month, as well as a youth-targeted poster campaign throughout high schools and university campuses. Young drivers are the most common offenders.
Police are also reminding drivers about what it means to be "hands free." Phones should be hard mounted and secured to the vehicle. If drivers want to talk while driving, they need to use a Bluetooth or remote microphone.
A phone kept within range, on a driver's lap or in the passenger seat, is not considered legal. It's also illegal to make a hand-held phone call or text while at a stop light, which is one of the biggest offences. If the phone rings, a driver should pull over, say police.
"We see people with no seatbelt talking on the phone, and they let go of the steering wheel to put their seatbelt on, rather than put their cell phone down," said Sgt. Paul Ballard of the Vancouver Police Department traffic section. "It's sad. But it's the truth."
As of Feb. 1, drivers became subject to a fine of $167 for talking while using a hand-held phone or electronic device. Drivers caught texting or emailing became subject to three penalty points.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry