South Okanagan RCMP wearing disguises to catch distracted drivers

Distracted drivers can expect to be detected long before they ever see a police car

RCMP in the South Okanagan are getting creative in an attempt to catch distracted drivers.

Officers acting as spotters are now dressing in civilian clothing, construction uniforms, and more, and radioing ahead to let uniformed officers know of an incoming distracted driver. Traffic officers are also using commercial vehicles, like transport buses, as elevated platforms to catch those using devices while driving.

Distracted drivers can expect to be detected long before they ever see a police car or an officer in uniform, RCMP explained in a release Tuesday.

“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,” said Sgt. Ryan McLeod, Unit Commander of South Okanagan Traffic Services (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?’”

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This comes after a distracted driving enforcement blitz, across the South Okanagan in March, saw over 200 tickets issued in the communities of Penticton, Summerland, Princeton, Keremeos, Osoyoos and Oliver.

The use of hand-held electronic devices while driving, RCMP explained, has been banned in B.C. since 2010. A ticket for distracted driving involves a $368 fine and four penalty points ($252) for a total penalty of $620.

RCMP say distracted driving is responsible for more than one in four fatal crashes in B.C., and claims 76 lives each year. Studies show that drivers using their electronic devices lose sight of about 50 per cent of what is going on around them visually, and are five times more likely to crash.

The traffic authority encouraged drivers “not to play the guessing game” only to learn that the person they 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,” said the RCMP.

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