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Enjoy your coffee, but leave your phone alone, say police

Distracted driving regulations are ‘still about using common sense’
New distracted driving scopes allow police to spot offenders 1.2 kilometres away.

Drinking a cup of coffee while driving will not land you a $368 ticket for distracted driving, but texting while stuck in traffic — even if it’s at a stand-still — will, say police.

The new fines, which went into effect on June 1, are hefty, so drivers want to know what behaviours will lead to a ticket.

It’s still about common sense, with a focus on electronics, said Langley RCMP Cpl. Holly Largy.

“You can still drink coffee, but if you are tipping the cup over your eyes for a long period of time and cause an accident, then yes, that would be considered distracted driving.”

Don’t put on makeup, either. That is also considered distracted driving, said police.

Including a recent report of of a couple in Richmond having sex while driving, there is plenty that police and other drivers have seen when it comes to distracted driving.

The most common sight is drivers holding their phone to their ear, or putting it on speaker and holding their phone to their mouth.

When it comes to all electronic devices, the message is simple — leave them alone, caution police.

With bluetooth and GPS, you are allowed one touch, said Largy. Both types of devices need to be secured in your car.

One thing many drivers aren’t aware of, is that if you received a distracted driving ticket under the old rates and are ticketed again within in a 12-month period, the new fees are retroactive.

“That means it is considered a second offense and you will pay the $368 fine, plus seven points for a total of $888,” Largy said.

If you have a smartphone, don’t leave it on your passenger seat to tempt you to look at it when it buzzes or beeps with a text or call, police add. But a smartphone placed in your cup holder isn’t going to cost you a distracted driving ticket, said Largy.

“It’s only if you are looking at it or holding the phone.”

Langley RCMP’s traffic division was out on the first day the new fines took effect.That day, 26 tickets were issued in Langley. Time will tell if drivers are getting the message.

It is a $368 ticket plus four points (totaling $543 for first offense). It will cost $888 for the second offense. A driver cannot hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic device.

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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