KELOWNA – The steady stream of drivers being pulled over on Lakeshore Drive Wednesday morning is proof that some Kelowna drivers aren’t getting the message about distracted driving.
To help remind them, Kelowna RCMP have teamed up with RCMP Volunteer Services to stage volunteers at key points around the city with signs and marked vehicles.
March is Distracted Driving Month in B.C. and on March 16, Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Jesse O’Donaghey was at the Lexington Avenue roundabout on Lakeshore Drive with a representative of ICBC and two long time volunteers.
The volunteers, dressed in reflective vests, will be stationed at various points around Kelowna for the next few weeks. They will be taking note of the number of drivers they see who appear to be distracted and providing a visual reminder that using your phone is illegal while driving.
That’s strike one in what O'Donaghey calls “a three strikes system.”
If the reminder doesn’t work, the second strike is about half a kilometer down the road where a plainclothes officer radios ahead whether or not the warning worked. If not, a team of officers pull the distracted driver over and issue fines of $167.
“They’re picking (the phone) up once they pass us and then getting stopped,” he says. “It’s an ongoing issue and we’ll just continue to tailor our enforcement around it until the message is clearly accepted.”
O’Donaghey says not all electronic devices are illegal to use while driving. Hands-free phones are permitted as are GPS systems attached to the dash.
What’s not allowed is looking down at an electronic device, texting or holding a phone to your ear while talking. Drivers were also being ticketed for eating while driving, personal grooming and practically anything that takes their eyes off the road.
“Some people are still trying to hide it but we can still tell,” volunteer Gary Toneff says. “Intersections are the big ones. When they’re stopped they think they can look at their phones or start talking. Of course when the light turns green they’re still talking.”
He says most people are appreciative of the reminders they are giving, but some are less than happy.
“We’ve had a few single-digit waves,” he says. "But we’re just there to record the information (for the RCMP).”
O’Donaghey says rather than take a chance with your life, pull over if you need to take a call or read a message.
“There are no text messages, emails or conversations that are so important that you need to endanger yourself or others around you.”
O'Donaghey says enforcement officers issued 37 violation tickets to drivers for using an electronic device while driving in less than three hours Wednesday morning.
Gary Toneff is one of the volunteers helping warn distracted drivers before they get ticketed.
(ADAM PROSKIW /InfoTel Multimedia)
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