The time to multi-task is not when you're behind the steering wheel.
That was the message the Richmond RCMP and ICBC was getting across to drivers Tuesday morning as they held a one-day education and enforcement campaign at five locations across the city.
Called Project Swoop, it monitored not only the speed drivers were going, but whether or not they were being distracted while driving. And while that can come in a variety of forms - from turning around to discipline rowdy children in the back seats, to chowing down on a hamburger - one of the main culprits that can get you a fine and demerit points on your driver's licence is using a hand-held electronic device.
For video In Richmond, the RCMP hands out roughly 100 tickets for that infraction each month. And at $167 a pop, it's an expensive lesson on how dangerous using a hand-held cell phone can be while driving.
"You are four times as likely to be involved in a crash if you are behind the wheel and you are talking on an hand-held cell phone," said ICBC Safety Manager Jill Blacklock, who accompanied a group of Road Safety volunteers along a stretch of No. 5 Road just south of Blundell Road where the posted speed limit for the four lane strip of asphalt is 50 km/h, has numerous crosswalks, churches and schools that create a good share of pedestrian traffic.
And if you are texting, the likelihood you are going to have an accident soars 24 times above normal, Blacklock added.
That's why the province enacted laws specific to the use of cellphones, GPS systems and MP3 players to discourage that type of behaviour that some drivers classify as a minor distraction.
But according to statistics from ICBC, distracted driving is responsible for about one quarter of all car crash fatalities in B.C. And on average each year, 31 people die in the Lower Mainland in distracted driving-related crashes.
So, with the number of tickets being issued monthly and annual total of serious road accidents, is the message getting through? "There is a bit of disconnect," Blacklock said, adding many drivers feel like eating and drinking while driving is something they can easily handle.
While that might be a distraction and most likely will not get you a warning or ticket, using a hand-held electronic device certainly will.
However, what is allowed is the use of a hands-free cell phone system, but only if it is a one-touch operation unit.
For those who feel the need to stay in touch constantly, Blacklock suggested cell phone users employ the voice-activated functions of their phone that will allow drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road.
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