September is distracted driving and occupant restraint month. RCMP will be cracking down on distracted drivers (Black Press file photo)

What exactly counts as distracted driving in B.C.?

Police are cracking down on drivers who just can’t take their eyes off their phones

Police are out in force to combat distracted driving this month in B.C. Do you know exactly what counts as driving distracted?

It’s important to know. According to ICBC, distracted driving is responsible for more than one in four fatal crashes in B.C. and claims 77 lives each year. If that’s not enough, a ticket will get you a $368 fine and four penalty points on your licence, for a total fine of $578.

RELATED: Vancouver driver ticketed twice within 6 minutes for same offence

The main thing is using a handheld electronic device, such as a mobile phone, to talk, text, watch cat videos – you name it. Keep your hands off the phone. Hide it in your bag or glove box if you have to.

You can only use a phone to make calls with a wireless, Bluetooth headset or speakerphone, if it’s properly secured to the vehicle or your body, if it’s within easy reach, and if it can be operated with just one touch or your voice.

A phone in a cup holder does not count as secure. Neither does taping it to your steering wheel. And if it obstructs your view of the road? Forget it. Get a phone mount or holder that attaches to the dashboard, or don’t bother.

READ MORE: Elderly B.C. driver has ‘too many’ distracted driving tickets

Can you use headphones? Yes, but only in one ear, and you have to put it in before driving. The phone still has to be secured.

Same thing with handheld audio players, such as MP3 players. They must be properly secured and operated only with one touch or your voice.

What about GPS? These are fine to use as long as you program them before driving or if it’s voice-activated.

Cpl. Mike Halskov, media relations officer for RCMP’s E Division traffic services, said officers are always on the lookout for distracted drivers, and will be stepping up enforcement throughout September.

READ MORE: Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could get you fined

“Our objective here is to make people aware that these things are dangerous [and] can impact our lives, and by taking these measures, they might save their own life or that of somebody else,” Halskov said.

And using a phone isn’t the only thing that counts as distracted driving. Here’s what else that could get you a ticket:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or car setting
  • Listen to extremely loud music
  • Reading (books, maps, etc.)
  • Watching videos
  • Smoking or vaping
  • Programming a GPS
  • Combing your hair or applying makeup
  • Talking to others in your vehicle
  • Interacting with your pet

Drop it and Drive, a B.C.-based non-profit that educates groups such as youth and workers on the risks of distracted driving, goes even further.

The organization includes “cognitive” distractions such as stress, anger or fatigue because they affect a driver’s ability to pay attention.

RELATED: ICBC launches pilot app to track new drivers’ bad habits

ICBC has set up a pilot project for drivers to test a telematics device that will record information such as distance, speed and braking. A smartphone app will reward drivers for good habits and reduce cell phone distractions.

“Our telematics pilot project will help us better understand the role that technology can play in reducing distraction and preventing crashes for inexperienced drivers,” said ICBC vice president of public affairs Lindsay Matthews. “But safer roads start with every driver making a conscious decision to focus on the road and leave their phones alone.”

RELATED: ‘Kick the habit’ or pay $368 for checking your phone while driving: police

Regardless of the programs in place, responsibility lies with drivers and those around them to change their behaviour.

When people witness a friend or loved one engaging in distracted driving, Cpl. Halskov said they need to speak up and be “brutally honest” about their dangerous habits.

“If you’re seeing a friend or family member engage in this kind of behaviour, it’s not only dangerous for that person doing that, it’s dangerous for other people using the road — motorists and pedestrians alike.”

DON’T MISS: B.C. Mountie’s warning to not talk on phone to driver at drive-thru sparks online rage

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