RCMP are using an unmarked van to catch distracted driving offenders

Published: February 28, 2019

Updated: April 1, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Preventing motorists from using their smartphones behind the wheel has proved to be a tough task for law enforcement, governments, and insurers. Getting tough in policing is one way to go and RCMP in Airdrie have found an interesting way to catch people engaging in distracted driving.

RCMP is using a team effort. Officers sit in an unmarked van, which gives them a higher vantage point to see offending drivers. When a motorist is seen breaking the law by distracted driving, another officer in the van takes a photo and radios ahead to a police car to pull over the offender.

The photo becomes the evidence.

“If we see anything else, seatbelts, or aggressive driving manoeuvres, we’ll obviously deal with those as well,” said Sgt. Darrin Turnbull, with RCMP Traffic Services, stressing that the van is not just about weeding out distracted drivers.

The van is unmarked, which means drivers are likely to be in their natural state instead of cautious in the presence of a marked police vehicle.

“They see the marked police vehicle and they drive good,” he said.

“It’s like a child. They’re not going to misbehave when mom or dad is watching. We’ve got to be out there in this type of a situation so we can observe them when they don’t think they’re being watched.”

Over the first four days of operations, the van caught three semi-trailer drivers using their phone along Highway 2.

“They were driving 100 km/h on the QEII, by Airdrie, with their cell phones in their hands,” Turnbull said.

“We all know the tragedy that can happen if a commercial vehicle is involved in a crash.”

Turnbull says he spots distracted driving, “constantly, every day”.

“Just look left and look right when you’re driving your own vehicle,” he said. “It’s actually scary how often and how much we see it.”