Surrey RCMP target distracted drivers during a Valentine's Day blitz.

Valentine’s blitz targets chatty drivers

Police are hoping to kiss traffic distractions goodbye with a Valentine’s Day blitz that targeted drivers who use hand-held cellphones while on the road.

As part of a Lower Mainland-wide initiative, officers staked out three White Rock intersections and one in north Surrey Monday.

At the corner of 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard, in the pouring rain, a plainclothes officer posed as a pedestrian waiting to cross. When a red sedan passed, the ‘pedestrian’ relayed the car colour and model to other police officers waiting up the street.

That car, and several others, was directed to pull into the Surrey Arts Centre parking lot. The drivers had been spotted talking on hand-held cellphones, an activity which has been banned in B.C. since Jan. 1, 2010.

Those found guilty – and there were 32,000 last year – will receive a $167 ticket and three penalty points on their insurance.

Police expressed surprise that the hefty fine and points haven’t acted as a deterrent. In the Lower Mainland this year, the number of tickets handed out have totalled 1,287. This month alone, police have issued 705 tickets for talking or texting while driving.

Supt. Norm Gaumont, responsible for Traffic Services in the RCMP-policed areas in the Lower Mainland, believes drivers will be getting the message.

“My sense is people know we’re out there and it’s had an impact on their behaviour,” Gaumont said in a release. “We definitely haven’t backed off. Our guys are kicking the daylights out of this. At this pace, we’re on track to write more than twice as many tickets than we did in January.”

In White Rock Monday – where officers were also on the lookout for seatbelt infractions and drivers who failed to stop for stop signs – the effort resulted in just six citations.

Sgt. Roland Pierschke said inclement weather likely played a role in the low number.

“The weather was terrible,” Pierschke said. “People aren’t out and about in this type of weather.”

The officers set up at Johnston Road and Thrift Avenue; near Five Corners; and at Fir Street and Pacific Avenue, Pierschke said.

Surrey statistics from Monday’s blitz weren’t available by Peace Arch News deadline.

Gaumont said the drivers he sees that continue to break the cellphone ban are usually 25 years old or younger. According to the RCMP, distracted driving was a contributing factor in 48 per cent of all traffic fatalities in the Lower Mainland last year.

with files from Tracy Holmes

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