Police in Nanaimo issued multiple violation tickets for distracted driving in March and want to step up enforcement against drivers who allow pets to ride in their laps. News Bulletin file photo

Nanaimo cellphone-watch operations nail distracted drivers

Nearly 30 tickets issued for distracted and obstructed driving in March

Violation statistics show some drivers are still not getting the message when it comes to distracted driving.

March was Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The Nanaimo RCMP were involved in multiple initiatives in partnership with community volunteers who conducted cellphone-watch operations throughout the month in an effort to remind drivers to put their electronic devices away while operating motor vehicles.

Police conducted targeted enforcement in high-traffic areas in the city and issued 27 violation tickets for distracted-driving-related offences and most of the tickets issued were for using electronic devices while driving.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said those numbers could easily have doubled were it not that RCMP members were involved in two fatal motor vehicle accident investigations which diverted manpower away from traffic enforcement.

“What they’re sensing is some drivers just don’t care because either they’ve never got a ticket or they’ve never caused an accident by using an electronic device,” O’Brien said.

He said drivers distracted by texting while sitting at stoplights are frequently the cause of intersection crashes and he recommends keeping cell phones more than an arm’s length away while driving.

Multiple warning letters were sent to vehicle owners regarding observed cell phone use while driving their vehicles and violation tickets were also issued to motorists for driving while control was obstructed.

“We’ve been remiss because we haven’t been taking action for a long time on this, but what we’re seeing now is lot of people … like to have their animals sit on their lap when they’re driving their motor vehicle,” he said. “That’s unacceptable and is the true sense of driving while control is obstructed.”

O’Brien said police have seen instances in which dogs weighing up to 70 kilograms are sitting in drivers’ laps.

“Seriously, we’re seeing that,” he said. “Then we’re also seeing little Fluffy who’s crawled up on its [owner’s] left shoulder while it’s braced up on their left arm while it’s sucking air through the window. That is not acceptable. If you care about your animal, either put him in the back seat or leave him at home because the animal is going to bear the brunt, if you have an accident, along with you.”

Activities such as eating a hamburger while driving can also result in distracted driving or driving without due care and attention charges if eating while driving is determined as a factor in an accident, O’Brien said.

Anyone with questions or concerns about what constitutes distracted driving is asked to contact the Nanaimo RCMP municipal traffic unit at 250-754-2345.


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