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Drivers missing message about cellphones

Following a one-month grace period where drivers were issued warnings rather than tickets, police around the province have started to ticket drivers for talking on their cellphones while driving without using a hands-free device, or using other electronic gadgets.

ICBC is still collecting data, but in the month of February - the second month for the ban - more than 2,200 violation tickets have been processed. That's likely only the beginning, according to ICBC spokesperson Adam Grossman, as law enforcement agencies are still submitting their written violation tickets.

Once ICBC has collected more data they will be able to update the public on where those tickets were handed out.

Whistler is not specifically tracking the number of tickets either, although Sergeant Shawn LeMay estimates he's given out five tickets for driving with a cellphone and probably 10 warnings. However, he says in many cases the driver will be issued with another ticket while talking on their phones for "rolling through stop signs, veering in their lanes, speeding, while talking on a cellphone."

In one case Sgt. LeMay drove behind a driver for several blocks with his lights and siren on and the driver did not notice because they were talking on their phone. "These incidents support the idea that (drivers) are distracted," he added.

He also recently issued a ticket to a driver from the U.S. for speeding and tailgating while talking on his phone.

"He was tailgating me in my squad car and I pulled over at one point and he sped past and started to tailgate the vehicle in front of him. I stopped him and told him he was speeding and tailgating and he said he had no idea and that he was talking to his girlfriend," said Sgt. LeMay.

In some cases drivers from other provinces and states aren't aware of the law in B.C. and will get off with a warning, but with a choice of three tickets Sgt. LeMay opted to write the Colorado man a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving.

"Our goal is to educate, and it's for all of us to make the roads a lot safer," said LeMay. "The things people do, they take chances and they take risks that are going to jeopardize our safety... When we see these things happen we can't give breaks. We live in a safe community, but we can make it safer."

The ban on cellphones and electronic devices came into effect on Jan. 1. The law covers cellphones, personal data assistants, portable music players and other devices that require more than one touch of a button to operate. Hands-free and voice activated phones are still allowed, although they have been banned in other jurisdictions on the grounds that they also provide a distraction while driving.

The penalty is a $167 ticket and if you're in the Graduated Licence Program you lose three points as well.

A complete list is available here.

Andrew Mitchell reports for The Pique, where this first appeared.

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