Distracted drivers offered excuses to Langley cops

 

Langley Mounties handed out a thick stack of tickets to distracted drivers, most using cell phones, during a month-long blitz in September.

In one month, the RCMP issued 872 violation tickets for distracted driving alone, said Cpl. Holly Marks, spokesperson for the Langley RCMP.

Police used unmarked cars and officers wearing plainclothes, standing by the side of the road at several locations. When officers spot bad behaviour, they can radio for nearby uniformed Mounties to pull over the offender and issue a ticket.

Police saw a number of instances of bad behaviour during the month, said Cpl. Holly Marks, spokesperson for the Langley RCMP.

• A woman drove straight through a red light while texting on her cellphone.

• A driver was stopped and given a ticket for using a cellphone. Just over an hour later, he was stopped a second time three blocks away, again back on his phone.

• A woman using a cellphone tried to turn while texting and could barely control her car.

• A commercial truck driver was trying to drive while using two cell phones, one in each hand.

• On numerous occasions, cars sat at traffic lights that had turned green while the distracted driver failed to notice other cars moving.

• A commercial vehicle driver approached a road check and threw his cellphone on the floor to try to avoid being detected. When he thought he was safe and unobserved, he leaned down to pick it up, drifting into the next lane while he did so. Fortunately, he didn’t hit any other cars, said Marks.

• While four officers in bright-yellow high visibility jackets were standing on one side of the street handing out tickets, drivers heading the other way blithely continued talking on their phones just meters away.

• One driver felt the spotters were too obvious. “You’re not fooling anyone, you [expletive] pig!” he yelled as he passed the officer. The very next car was driven by a man using a cellphone.

Along with the distracted drivers, police gave out 442 tickets for not wearing seat belts, seized drugs from three cars pulled over for distracted driving issues, and found two drivers who were talking on their phones were also drunk, and gave them 90-day driving bans.

One woman was stopped because she was driving a rental car with two toddlers in the back who were jumping up and down on the back seat like it was a trampoline.

The police collected some of the most common excuses, along with a few of the strangest.

Most common included saying that it was calls from family members or work. “I had to answer it,” many drivers said.

“I was just answering to let them know I couldn’t talk,” several people said.

More than one driver claimed they had been holding their wallet up to their ear, not their phone, said Marks. Others claim that they were holding their phone, but not using it.

A ticket for using an electronic device while driving is $167.

Marks noted that’s more expensive than most Bluetooth devices that allow hands-free use of a cellphone.

Crackdowns like this one are aimed at reducing accidents and deaths.

“When you’re distracted, you react slower,” said Hilary Matheson, the local road safety coordinator. “You’re four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone while driving. Focus on the road, not on your phone, and watch for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Distracted driving is now the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C. Every year, on average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.

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