Across the province some 32,000 tickets have been handed out for distracted driving, with the majority of those stemming from drivers talking on cell phones without the hands-free devices required by law. Each ticket is for $167, which means British Columbians have paid over $5.3 million since the new laws on distracted driving came into effect on Feb. 1, 2010.
Evidence also suggests that some drivers have paid with their lives. In the Vancouver police district, which includes Whistler and other communities, distracted driving may have contributed to 46 of the 95 road deaths reported in the past year - some 48 per cent of all vehicle fatalities. That's significantly higher than the provincial average of 32 per cent.
In order to draw attention to the laws, Sea to Sky Traffic Services and the Whistler RCMP's traffic officer will be part of a province-wide Valentine's Day sweep with the theme of getting home safely to your valentine.
"We're asking that people adhere to the legislation and best practices," said Sergeant Shawn LeMay of the Whistler RCMP. "Not just because it's against the law, but for safety reasons.
"Something our senior officers have noticed anecdotally is that when they see a driver driving carelessly - swerving, braking unnecessarily, rolling through stop signs, the likelihood is very high that the person is on the phone or checking messages."
Given the number of tickets and offences, Sgt. LeMay said its clear that drivers are not getting the message - something he said is frustrating, given the amount of attention the new law received and the real potential for accidents, injury and fatalities.
Impaired driver takes police on a chase
At 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 30, the RCMP noticed a grey Ford Escape stopping on Lorimer road to let out a female passenger. When the vehicle pulled away it straddled the centre line to Highway 99, then proceeded to drive over the median and head north.
At that point the RCMP began to pursue the vehicle. It swerved into the opposite lane, then collided with a concrete barrier on the side of the highway before continuing to Nancy Greene Drive. The vehicle went over another median before turning down the street, then hit one snowbank, then another. The vehicle then turned onto the Valley Trail and stopped. As the police pulled up behind the vehicle, it began to reverse again until the police got the driver's attention.
The male, identified as a 34-year-old from Toronto, was having issues with balance when he exited the vehicle and failed two roadside tests with ratings of .210 per cent blood alcohol content - almost three times the legal limit.