Vancouver police say they handed out nearly 2,000 tickets in just one month as part of a province-wide crackdown on distracted driving.

“The high number of tickets written during the campaign proves distracted driving is still a problem on Vancouver roads,” Sgt. Jason Robillard told reporters Tuesday. “Distracted driving has shown to be one of the leading contributing factors of traffic fatalities in B.C. – even surpassing impaired driving.”

During the month of September, officers issued a whopping 1,969 tickets to distracted drivers across the city, leading police to renew their warnings that paying attention on the road can be a matter of life or death.

“If you know someone who just won’t give up their phone while driving, maybe you can have some influence,” Robillard said. “We have at least 1,969 reasons to remind our loved ones to pull over or leave the phone alone while driving.”

The tickets were issued as part of the Provincial Distracted Driving Campaign, which launched Sept. 1 amid British Columbia’s ongoing efforts to cut down on distracted driving.

All the fines were issued specifically for the use of an electronic device while driving and do not include tickets handed out for other forms of distraction or careless driving, Robillard said.

During the month-long campaign, the VPD said its officers heard and saw “just about everything when it comes to excuses for distracted driving,” including a man who tried to justify his actions because he was watching a financial video from his website. One woman said she didn’t realize that having her cell phone on her lap while she ate her lunch with both hands would be considered distracted driving.

“A lot of people are going to great lengths to try to hide (their phones) in their laps and other things like that,” Robillard said. “It’s all dangerous.”

In June of 2016, the province more than doubled the base penalty for distracted driving from $167 to $368.

Those caught focusing on anything other than the road now also face four penalty points, which leads to a $175 increase in insurance premiums.

Distracted drivers caught a second time within a year will face an $888 fine, then $1,600 for a third offence.

At those rates, the tickets issued in Vancouver last month amount to at least $725,000. That’s almost 9 per cent of the $8.2 million in fines collected across the entire province in 2015. That number could be even higher depending on how many of the drivers fined were second or third time offenders within the last 12 months.

In one instance, an unnamed motorist was slapped with two hefty distracted driving tickets totaling $736 in the span of eight minutes.

The province is now looking at new ways of decreasing distracted driving in addition to the steeper fines.

In August, B.C.’s new NDP government said it would also like to see ICBC offer discounts to drivers who voluntarily to use apps that block texts and calls in moving vehicles.

These technologies are already being used to help prevent distracted driving accidents in the United States.

According to provincial regulations, devices can be used for calls or as GPS navigation tools as long as they’re securely mounted on the dashboard and are voice-activated or require a single touch to initiate.

Local authorities are also introducing their own distracted driving prevention measures.

In September, police in Abbotsford began handing out free boxes for drivers to stow their phone in while on the road.

For now, police are urging the public to simply put down their devices and avoid other distractions while behind the wheel.

“We can only do our part as a police department, but we need help from everybody,” Robillard said.

“The ticket amount for using an electronic device while driving in B.C. is $368, but that cost is nothing compared to the cost of losing a loved one. It’s time to take a break from your phone.”