South Okanagan Traffic Services (SOTS) based out of Keremeos is utilizing creative new methods to detect drivers using electronic devices. Distracted drivers can expect to be detected long before they ever see a police car or an officer in uniform.
Using a variety of disguises, including officers in civilian clothing, spotters are radioing ahead to uniformed enforcement teams. Traffic officers are also incorporating commercial vehicles as elevated platforms to catch offenders.
Pictured below are examples of the methods being deployed throughout the South Okanagan region.
Prior to curtailing enforcement efforts in March due to COVID-19, SOTS conducted a distracted driving enforcement blitz across the South Okanagan. The effort 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, says 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?’
Every driver has choices to make when it comes to driving. Please make it a habit to put your phone in a place where you won't be tempted to use it, use the Do Not Disturb feature, or ask a passenger to take a call for you. It’s never too late to make the right decision.
According to provincial statistics, distracted driving is responsible for more than 1 in 4 fatal crashes in BC and claims 76 lives each year. Studies show that drivers using their electronic devices lose about 50% of what is going on around them visually and are 5 times more likely to crash.
The use of handheld electronic devices while driving has been banned in BC since 2010. A ticket for distracted driving involves a $368 fine and four penalty points ($252) for a total penalty of $620.
Police across the province are always on the lookout for distracted drivers, whether or not a targeted enforcement campaign is underway, and will utilize conventional and unconventional methods to enforce this legislation. Don’t play the guessing game only to learn that the person you thought was a construction worker, pedestrian or bus passenger was actually a police officer in disguise! Please make it your habit to ignore your electronic devices when driving and wear your seatbelt – it could save your life.