Several distracted drivers in White Rock got an expensive wake-up call Friday, as police kicked off a month-long blitz of targeting those who just can’t resist using their phones behind the wheel.
Around 10 motorists were handed fines for the violation in the effort’s first 90 minutes, Const. Chantal Sears told Peace Arch News as she scanned drivers at the intersection of Johnston Road and Russell Avenue.
It was a number that only grew as the day wore on, and one that surprised the officer.
“I am surprised, given the amount of publicity and education we seem to do, as well as enforcement, that the message isn’t getting out,” Sears said.
“We see a lot of drivers holding their phone, still, in front of their face, while they’re at a red light, thinking that’s OK. You’re not allowed to hold any electronic device.”
For Friday’s effort, Sears dressed to give the impression she was a homeless person, and stood holding a cardboard sign that read “HEY, COPS R WATCHING 4 DISTRACTED DRIVING #EYESFORWARDBC”
As vehicles drove past, she scanned the drivers, watching for anyone using or holding their phone, as well as other violations, and radioing the licence plate numbers to uniformed officers who were waiting just down the street.
Sears said most people – including those who were caught – were supportive of the efforts, which were being conducted as part of a wider effort by ICBC to encourage drivers to take a break from their phones while behind the wheel.
Some, however, “felt they were deceived.”
Sears said one man who returned to speak with her argued he was given the wrong violation ticket.
Another driver, White Rock resident David Geertz, told PAN he is “completely” going to fight the $368 fine he was handed Friday morning while en route to Peninsula Village – but not because he feels deceived.
Geertz said his truck was pulled over by police shortly after he waved to a woman holding a cardboard sign that warned police were up ahead.
He said he disputes the assertion that he was using his phone.
“I just waved back at her. I was nowhere near that phone,” Geertz said, noting all he had done was change his radio station while stopped at the red light.
Geertz is also confident the spotting officer couldn’t have seen a phone even if he was holding one.
“She was well, well below the level of the window,” he said.
Sears told PAN she didn’t recall Geertz specifically, but said that she had no trouble seeing into any truck windows Friday.
She also said she only flagged vehicles for the uniformed officers if she was “100 per cent” sure the driver was in violation of driving laws.
For anyone who disagrees, “there’s due process,” she said.
Similar enforcement efforts will continue throughout the month, Sears said.