NORTH Shore police will be out in full force this September to catch distracted drivers as residents head back into the busy work and school season.
Police have teamed up with ICBC to tackle distracted driving, which ICBC says is the third leading cause of fatalities in B.C. car crashes.
"Its something that as much as we enforce it, there are still people who are either unaware or ignorant of the laws and will continue to talk on the phone or be distracted in other ways," said Cpl. Richard De Jong, a spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP.
Under current legislation it is against the law to be holding an electronic device in your had while driving, even a cellphone that is on speakerphone, said Sgt. Tim Kravjanski, who heads West Vancouver police's traffic section.
While stopped at a red light, drivers are not allowed to pick up their cellphone or iPod to just check a text message or change the music. Drivers must have their car stopped at the side of the road and in park before they engage with their electronics, said Kravjanski.
The electronics ban has been in place for two and a half years, and Kravjanski said the police force's patience is running thin and officers are no longer giving out warnings.
If caught, distracted drivers will pay a $167 fine and receive three penalty points if they are texting.
Both De Jong and Kravjanski said they have seen many accidents, often involving a rear ending, that are the result of distracted driving, usually cellphone use.
"Cellphones tend to be a bit more dangerous. Not only do the take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel, they cause what psychologists call a cognitive distraction. They engage your mind in something other than driving your vehicle," said Mark Milner, manager of road safety programs at ICBC.
"What we don't want to see is people being killed and injured on our roads. These are our friends, neighbours and families," said Milner.
ICBC has come up with a new way to encourage drivers to ignore their cellphones: ring tones.
With names like "Road of No Replies" and "Texty Lady," the ring tones are available in six different genres.
Said Milner: "The hope is that the more you hear this, the more that it become second nature to let it go to voicemail and not look at that text."