It only takes one second.
Distracted driving kills an average of 78 people every year in British Columbia. A cellphone pulling a driver’s attention away from the road, even for a blink of an eye, can lead to tragic consequences.
That was the message Surrey RCMP and ICBC were stressing at a distracted driving blitz near the intersection of 64 Avenue and 176 Street Thursday. Police across the province have stepped up distracted driving enforcement in March, which is distracted driving month.
Police and ICBC held the public awareness event only days after three people were injured when an SUV drove onto a sidewalk in Newton. One of the injured was a five-year-old girl.
Police said distracted driving may be to blame for the Sunday (March 21) collision, which occurred around 5 p.m. on 72 Avenue between 122 Street and 124 Street. The motorist was a new driver.
“It can happen in just a blink of an eye,” Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko said.
“Regardless of the fact that it was a new driver, we do know that distraction is a factor in collisions for people of all driving experiences. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a new driver, how good of a driver you are, how long you have been driving. It only takes a second of taking your eyes off the road for distraction to lead to something like a tragedy.”
ICBC road safety co-ordinator Joanne Bergman told Peace Arch News that aside from speed, distracted driving is the leading contributing factor of motor vehicle collisions that result in fatalities. Impaired driving is the third-most frequent contributing factor.
“We’re out here to educate and enforce distracted driving awareness month that’s being held provincially,” Bergman said.
Thursday, Surrey RCMP volunteers, dressed in bright yellow reflective coats, monitored drivers near the intersection with a telescope. ICBC and the volunteers erected signs along the roadway, giving plenty of warning to drivers that they were being monitored for distracted driving.
A little further down the road, at a red light, Surrey RCMP police officers were paying keen attention to vehicles.
Even with ample warnings and an obvious police presence, some motorists couldn’t resist the urge to reach for their phone.
In the brief time PAN was on the scene, one motorist received a $368 ticket for distracted driving, which came with four driver penalty points.