RCMP using disguises to catch distracted drivers

RCMP using disguises to catch distracted drivers

RCMP use a civilian shuttle bus as a mobile surveillance vehicle to catch offending motorists, particularly distracted drivers. (Photo submitted)

Times-Chronicle Staff

The next time you see what looks like a utility worker in bright coveralls on the side of the road, he might be a police officer in disguise trying to catch you on your cell phone while you’re driving.

South Okanagan Traffic Services are now donning disguises to catch distracted drivers.

“Distracted drivers can expect to be detected long before they ever see a police car or an officer in uniform,” states an RCMP press release Tuesday.

South Okanagan traffic cops used a variety of disguises, including officers in civilian clothing, with spotters radioing ahead to uniformed enforcement teams. Traffic officers are also incorporating commercial vehicles as elevated platforms to catch offenders.

A disguised officer in the South Okanagan. Photo: RCMP

Prior to curtailing enforcement efforts in March due to COVID-19, traffic cops conducted a distracted driving enforcement blitz across the South Okanagan.

The “blitz” saw officers conducting targeted enforcement efforts in Penticton, Summerland, Princeton, Keremeos, Osoyoos and Oliver. Over 200 tickets were issued for either distracted driving or occupant restraint violations.

“We could just do enforcement but we would be missing an opportunity to prevent these offences from happening in the first place. To that end, we are raising awareness and actually advertising our tactics in the hopes that drivers with an illegal electronic device habit will change their behaviour,” said Sgt. Ryan McLeod, unit commander of SOTS. Penalties aside, we are asking drivers to ask themselves one question: ‘Is that text message or phone call worth my life or the life of someone else?’

According to provincial statistics, distracted driving is responsible for more than one in four fatal crashes in B.C. and claims 76 lives each year.

The use of handheld electronic devices while driving has been banned in B.C. since 2010 and a ticket for distracted driving involves a $368 fine and four penalty points ($252) for a total penalty of $620.