Do you talk or text while driving?
I’m going to guess that not everybody reading this can say they don’t.
In fact, Insp. Les Yeo of the Vancouver Police Department’s traffic section knows that many drivers continue to use their cellphones while behind the wheel.
Earlier this month, Yeo said police spent less than two hours near the intersection of Main and Terminal and handed out 49 tickets to what he calls “distracted drivers.”
“A lot of people are still not getting the message,” Yeo told the Vancouver Police Board at its meeting this month.
In fact, since Jan. 1, police have written 1,048 tickets to motorists for using an electronic device while driving. An “electronic device” includes a cellphone, a personal digital assistant and, believe it or not, a hand-held game. Police will also write you a ticket if you’re scrolling through your list of songs on your iPod while cruising along the street
As any driver knows or should know, the provincial law says you can’t talk on a cellphone while driving unless it can be operated hands-free.
If you’ve been caught doing this, you know it comes with a fine of $167. In addition, drivers caught texting or emailing are subject to three penalty points.
New drivers in the so-called graduating licensing program are not even allowed to use a hands-free cellphone. Those are the drivers with the big N on the back of the car, or big Z for the cool kids who flip the N on its side.
Police officers, firefighters and paramedics who may need to make calls while on the job and motorists who need to call 911 are exempt from the legislation. The use of two-way radios for commercial or industrial vehicles is still permitted.
It’s OK to pull over to the side of the road and talk on your phone. But, as Yeo clarified, you can’t use your phone while stopped at a red light.
He urged motorists to search out phone company AT&T’s YouTube videos/documentaries on what can happen to you behind the wheel while distracted. In one of the videos, a Missouri state trooper tells a story of a teenaged girl who died in a crash after texting while driving. (You can see an AT&T video here through Layar.)
Yeo noted when seatbelt laws were introduced in the province many years ago, it took a while for motorists to get the message to buckle up. He hopes the same trend will occur with the cellphone driving ban.
Yeo noted there are technology and apps available that allow, for example, a parent to disable their son or daughter’s cellphone while driving.
There is also a movement in the United States to have cellphone carriers install technology in a phone that would make it impossible to use a phone while driving.
Police board member Mary Collins also wondered if there is technology being developed for a third party to slow down cars to prevent accidents.
Police Chief Jim Chu took the question and noted Google has built and operated a driverless car. So, he said, that type of technology is coming in response to what Collins phrased as an “off-the-wall” question.
Alas, a quick Google search revealed a human-controlled Google driverless car was involved in a crash near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
Turns out, however, the car was being driven at the time by a real person. No word on whether the driver was using a cellphone.