Despite 32 distracted driving deaths in Interior a year, drivers still distracted

Kelowna RCMP are cracking down on distracted driving in hopes it will save lives.

About 78 people died last year in the province due to distracted driving, including 32 who died here in the Interior, according to ICBC.

At a distracted driving blitz on Enterprise Way on Friday, Constable Steve Holmes called out the drivers who don't think it's a serious offence. 

“Those are the people that have never had close calls or have never been the victim of a crash as a result of someone driving distracted. It is a big deal,” he says “Driving a motor vehicle is a complex operation that requires all of your faculties, your vision, your hearing and your attention to the road”

Many drivers are still not getting the message and driving with their phones out. During a recent distracted driving blitz in Lake Country, police ticketed 50 people in 7 hours. 

Not only is it dangerous, it can also be expensive- fines for distracted driving were increased last year from $167 to $368, which Holmes says many drivers don’t realize. The law applies even when stopped at a red light.

“To clarify: operation of a motor vehicle, that extends to persons that are stopped at red lights” Holmes said.  

If using headphones, only one ear bud is allowed to be used while driving.

Holmes says the lives that are taken away due to distracted driving are very preventable.

“Shut it off or have it paired properly to the in-car Bluetooth system” he said.

According to ICBC, drivers are 5 times more likely to crash if they're on their phone, and distracted driving has become the second-leading cause of car crash fatalities, ahead of impaired driving. 

The renewed calls, urging drivers to stop driving with their phones, is in part because March is distracted driving month.