By Vanessa Broadbent
I’ve gotten a total of two tickets for using my cell phone while driving.
The first was when I was 18 years old. A friend and I were trying to get tickets to a sold-out music festival, and I just had to call her and tell her about a deal I found on Craigslist. (Or at least I thought I had to.)
As I came around a corner, an RCMP officer armed with radar saw the phone and made me pull over. I got a ticket and to top it off, the post on Craigslist turned out to be a scam.
The second ticket came two years later. By this time, I thought I learned my lesson and using my phone while driving was a rarity, if ever.
But the clock in my car had broken and I was fully stopped at a red light when I pressed the home button on my phone on the seat beside me, just to see how late I was running for work.
An RCMP officer standing on the corner saw me, knocked on my window, told me to pull into a nearby parking lot and gave me another ticket.
In both situations I broke the law and used a cellphone while in control of a vehicle, but the second ticket stung a little more. I had changed my bad habits, tried to become a better driver, and was now paying for doing something no more dangerous than switching the station on the radio or reading a passing billboard.
As part of a blitz against distracted driving last weekend, RCMP in the South Okanagan say that in the Penticton area alone, they took 54 enforcement actions for cellphone violations.
According to ICBC, 78 people die each year in B.C. as a result of distracted driving, which they clarify to include talking, texting or using a device while driving. The Southern Interior has the highest average in the province at 32 deaths a year. ICBC also says that one in four fatal crashes in B.C. are a result of distracted driving.
However, as stated in an article published by Global News, Richmond lawyer Paul Doroshenko says that according to BC Coroners stats only 14 people have actually died from using electronic devices between 2008 and 2016. He credited difference in information to ICBC lumping all distracted driving deaths together, not just the cellphone related ones.
I’m thankful that RCMP are working hard to keep our roads safe, but I can’t help but wonder how many of those 54 drivers caught on their phones last weekend were actually putting others’ lives in danger.
It may be easy for RCMP officers to hang around intersections, dressed in civilian clothing, to spot cellphone users at traffic lights (as mentioned in the release from the RCMP), but are those drivers really the problem?
I’d imagine the $368 fine along with four penalty points valued at $175 – a total of $543 – exceeds the risk a distracted driver in a completely stopped car at a red light presents.
I’ll continue to ignore my phone while I’m driving, partially for safety reasons, partially for financial reasons, but I still cringe every time I remember getting that ticket. It felt a lot like getting a ticket for jaywalking across an empty road.