RCMP to crack down on distracted drivers with campaign beginning April 1

Kathy Bockus/Courier The St. Stephen detachment of the RCMP intends to crack down on distracted drivers during the month of April after concerns about drivers of motor vehicles using cell phones and other handheld electronic devices were raised by the town council and the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission's policing committee.

St. Stephen – Consider it fair warning.  Beginning Saturday, the RCMP will crack down on distracted drivers in St. Stephen and McAdam during the month of April.
“I have laid out to my members it is zero tolerance,” said Sgt. Peter Stubbs, St. Stephen detachment commander.

Stubbs said drivers continue to ignore the law by texting, holding onto the phone while talking, or operating a GPS or other hand held electronic device while driving.
“Reaction time is delayed when a driver takes their eyes off the road for several seconds to text or program a GPS, and this increases the likelihood of being involved in a serious or fatal crash.”

Stubbs said the initiative is a result of concerns expressed to him.
“I am hearing from my mayor and council, and the (regional service commission’s) policing committee that they are concerned.”

A recent enforcement initiative in St. Stephen resulted in four drivers being ticketed in just slightly more than an hour, for operating a handheld device. A ticket carries a fine of $172.50 and drivers lose three points from their driver’s license.

“Those continuing to text and drive, or dial phone numbers while driving, are aware that their actions are illegal as the law has been in place for several years now,” said Sgt. Stubbs.

“What’s happening is more and more drivers are attempting to avoid detection, but it’s obvious what they’re doing as their eyes are looking down, and not out at the road.”

Stubbs said it is also illegal for drivers to use a hand held device when stopped at traffic lights, or at a stop sign at an intersection.
“That’s happening a lot here.”

The only individuals exempt from the distracted driving law are on-duty first responders.
Stubbs said he hopes the focused enforcement at this time of year will contribute to safer roads throughout the summer, an especially busy time in the region, but warned the officers intend to continue to enforce the distracted driving law throughout the year.

There has been more than a 200 per cent increase in summary traffic ticket offences in the St. Stephen area in the past six months. Stubbs says this is due to the emphasis the officers are making on enforcing the traffic laws of the province, to keep roads and highways safer for the motoring public.

“Another issue within St. Stephen is lack of stopping at stop signs,” said Stubbs. Enforcing the “cessation of motion” by motor vehicles at stop signs is another target enforcement planned by the RCMP, likely to take place in the fall.

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.