Christine Kirby

Christine Kirby

Cell phone hazards highlighted

A minor crash caused by distracted driving could cost the driver a $384 violation ticket

Getting one ‘quick’ text message out of the way while driving landed Mary-Anne Morgan in a major crash.

Both her, and her passenger were air lifted to hospital with significant injuries, with her passenger sustaining the brunt of them.

Along with the awful feeling of injuring her friend, Morgan was charged with dangerous driving causing injury. She was sentenced to one-year probation, lost her license for a year and was fined $1,000.

While that is the stark reality of what can happen when drivers turn their attention to their cell phones, Morgan’s incident was just a fictional example.

ICBC brought its distracted driving simulator to Vernon city hall Tuesday, where Morgan, an RCMP volunteer, got to test her distracted driving skills.

“I was startled at how difficult it is to text and focus on the road,” said Morgan.

“The simple things like turning left and turning right were almost impossible. It’s very difficult to multi-task in your car.”

Unfortunately, it’s a situation Morgan sees all too often.

As the top producer for the city’s Community Safety Unit during distracted driving checks, Morgan records an average of 14 distracted drivers an hour.

“The funny thing is they usually don’t even see me,” said Morgan, who is dressed in a high visibility vest and stands at the corner by the Wholesale Club.

Regan Borisenko, CSU Crime Prevention co-ordinator, adds, it’s only those Morgan sees who hold their phone up that are recorded.

“That’s not the crotch dialers.”

During these checks, license plates and driver descriptions are recorded and submitted to the RCMP, who send out a warning letter.

But those caught by the police won’t be so lucky.

“RCMP is cracking down on distracted driving so their enforcement is going to pick up,” said Borisenko.

The reason, along with September being Distracted Driving Awareness month, is the toll this habit can cause.

“Distracted driving is the second highest cause of vehicle crashes,” said Borisenko.

As learned from the ICBC simulator, a $167 ticket for distracted driving is minor compared to the potential for injury, or death, and even the consequences that come from a crash.

A minor crash caused by distracted driving could cost the driver a $384 violation ticket, approximately $2,100 to fix their vehicle, a new $2,694 six-month insurance premium and three weeks without a car, all of which they will have to work 575 hours to pay for.

Vernon’s Mayor Akbal Mund also got a chance to try out the distracted driving simulator and failed his task.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said.

RCMP Cst. Kathy Szoboticsanec also took the challenge and ended up running a stop sign, among other violations.

“We are demonstrating that when you do text, you are looking at what you are writing and you’re not looking at the road,” said Borisenko.

Cst. Dan Cocks hit a dog and almost hit a pedestrian as he had a real distraction, his phone rang and he answered it.

“Its very effective for the message we’re trying to get out,” said Christine Kirby, ICBC Road Safety co-ordinator.

Kirby will be getting the simulator, which is used throughout the province, back in the early spring and will bring it to local high schools.