Nanaimo police go incognito to catch distracted drivers

Careful. That old beater pulled up next to you at a traffic light might have a cop behind the wheel.

Police in Nanaimo are taking the road less travelled to catch distracted drivers through February by driving cars that don’t look anything like police vehicles.

Dodge minivans, old Toyota Camrys, Chevy Cavaliers and other vehicles in Nanaimo RCMP’s fleet have been rolled out to catch people blabbing on cellphones, fiddling with GPS units and fooling around with other electronic devices in their cars when they’re supposed to be paying attention to their driving.

“We’ll have members in those kinds of cars looking for people that are texting or on their cellphones,” said Const. Shawn Parker of Nanaimo RCMP’s municipal traffic unit. “We’re also doing normal enforcement during the course of our duties and we’ll use a spotting scope. They’ve got pretty good distance on them and with that we can certainly see people on their cellphones before they see us.”

It’s illegal in B.C. to operate any of those devices while driving and carries a fine of $167. Catching people doing so is the RCMP’s focus across B.C. for all of February.

So far Nanaimo traffic Mounties have issued 33 tickets for distracted driving this month, plus more tickets to drivers not wearing seatbelts and for other infractions.

Police shift their efforts to catching drunk drivers in the evenings. Wednesday through Saturday police issued a total of 14 immediate three-day and 90-day roadside suspensions.

“On our night shifts the focus is on impaired driving,” Parker said. “We had a busy weekend last weekend. We took four impaired drivers out of one spot.”

Tuesday morning police and students at McGirr Elementary School handed out Drop It and Drive It pamphlets – made from a poster designed by the students – to parents as they dropped their children off at school. Distracted driving enforcement will continue until the end of February.

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