The term "distracted driving" is evolving.
While using cell phones or electronic devices behind the wheel is still the most common form, police across B.C. are starting to see other types of distractions that can or have caused crashes in recent years.
Today (March 8), Port Moody police (PMPD) were out in force looking for oblivious vehicle operators at Ioco Road and Barnet Highway (7A) — considered one of the most collision-prone intersections in the region over the last five years.
Between 2017 and 2021, there were 254 crashes at Ioco Road and Highway 7A that led to property damage and casualties — serious or fatal.
Now, it's not clear how many of that number was caused by distracted driving, according to ICBC's data, but several were caught in the act today that prevented potential crashes.
Drivers were pulled over and ticketed under the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act (MVA). The fine for distracted driving is $582.
That's $368, plus four points against your driver's license equating to $214.
In other words, one expensive "quick look" to see who texted you, tagged you on Instagram or unnecessary scroll at a red light.
"We know statistically, you're 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a car crash, if you're distracted by your phone," said Kathleen Nadalin, ICBC spokesperson for the Tri-Cities.
March is distracted driving awareness month for the corporation in partnership with B.C. RCMP and police departments.
"Our main message is to eliminate all distractions and really do your best to focus on the roadway."
Cell phones are still the at the forefront of PMPD's latest initiative, but Const. Sam Zacharias told the Tri-City News officers have seen other activities that falls under the distracted driving category.
"We have seen people eat with their two hands and driving with their knees," he said.
"That's distracted driving in a different form and that can carry serious fines as well, like driving without due care....If you're not paying attention to what's in front of you, that's a concern."
Pets on drivers' laps are also becoming more common and can also lead to a $368 ticket and an additional $360 six-point premium
In an October 2021 incident in B.C., a Tesla driver appeared to be sleeping while the electric vehicle was on auto-pilot and were fined for driving without due care.
"The reality is, driving is one of the most complicated tasks a lot of people perform on a day-to-day basis, and it can potentially have everlasting effects if something bad happens, like a collision," said Zacharias.
He added, while a quick glance at a phone may seem harmless, that split second could court a high-risk driving situation.
"I would say that, you know, distracted driving, certainly an important type of enforcement that we do, but it's not the only approach that we have," Zacharias explained when asked about prioritizing catching distracted drivers over catching speedsters.
"At end of the day, we want to make the roads as safe as possible. And, you know, speeding is a major contributing factor to fatal collisions, as is distracted driving."
ICBC data shows, on average, 23 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland every year.
For more information, and to learn more about its month-long distracted driving campaign, you can visit the provincial corporation's website.
"All drivers in the province need to respect other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians," a statement reads from Mike Farnworth, Port Coquitlam MLA, deputy premier, solicitor general and public safety minister.
"Distracted driving is an unacceptable behaviour that endangers the lives of British Columbians with devastating effects for families and communities."