Acting Cpl. Hayden Willems of the Langley RCMP traffic section lines up the new long-range scope the detachment has begun using to catch distracted drivers.                                 Dan Ferguson Langley Times

Acting Cpl. Hayden Willems of the Langley RCMP traffic section lines up the new long-range scope the detachment has begun using to catch distracted drivers. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

One driver every five minutes is distracted: estimate

Langley RCMP deploy ultra-long range camera to catch drivers on cell phones

It’s kind of hard to claim you were holding your wallet near your head when the police have a photo clearly showing it was your cellphone.

Acting Cpl. Hayden Willems of the Langley RCMP traffic section said their new ultra-long range camera has been catching distracted drivers unawares from more than a kilometre away.

“We can see them before they see us,” Willems said.

Police have been using long-range spotting scopes used by birders and wildlife watchers to nab drivers who forget to wear seatbelts or talk on hand-held phones for years, but the addition of a camera that can record a high-definition image of motorists caught in the act is relatively recent.

The RCMP in B.C. began rolling them out last summer. The Langley detachment uses a Vortex spotting scope, coupled with an adapter that connects to a Nikon 3400 DSLR that produces 24.2-megapixel pictures in low light and can shoot up to five frames a second.

It can even be operated by remote control, ensuring the even the most far-sighted driver won’t see anything until it’s too late and the officer is explaining they have a photo.

“There’s no arguing it,” Willems said.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

More like $543, the first time.

On June 1 of last year, the provincial government hiked the fines for distracted driving for first-time offenders, who will now receive a $368 ticket and $175 for four penalty points for a total of $543.

Repeat offenders pay $368 plus escalating penalty points.

A second offence will cost $368 plus $520 in penalty points, for $888, rising in stages to $368 plus $14,520 in penalty points to $14,888.

The new fines put B.C. near the top of distracted driving fines for Canadian provinces, and two tickets in a year will also trigger an automatic review by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles that could result in licence suspension.

Stats suggest that distracted driving is responsible for 22 per cent of fatal car accidents involving people between 16 and 21, or one in five youth killed in car crashes every year.

Cpl. Willems said Langley traffic police have been averaging roughly one distracted driver every five minutes when they set up the spotter scope and camera combination.

“We can get (as many as) one a minute,” he estimated.

During a recent one-hour enforcement blitz, Langley officers and volunteers caught 30 drivers using their cellphones and issued tickets for 16 intersection infractions, eight for failing to wear seatbelts, four for driving without a licence or while prohibited to drive, one for no insurance and three for other driving offences.

The wallet fib is popular, with more than one driver claiming they didn’t have their cellphone to their ear, it was a wallet.

Other common excuses are: ‘It’s work/child/spouse calling, I have to answer’, or ‘I was just answering to let them know I couldn’t talk,’ or ‘the phone is on speaker so it’s hands-free.’

In British Columbia, it is against the law to text, email, talk or otherwise hold an electronic device in your hand while operating a motor vehicle, including while the vehicle is stopped at a red light.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

The bulk carrier ‘Port Alberni’ is berthed at CentrePort in Wellington, New Zealand on Monday, April 12, 2021. The carrier is 174 metres long by 29 metres wide, flies under a Hong Kong flag and was carrying logs. (CHARMEAD SCHELLA/Special to the News)
Logging ship a trip down memory lane for transplanted Canadian

The 174-metre ‘Port Alberni’ is registered in Hong Kong

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
A little girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Nanaimo poet Kamal Parmar will read some of her poems at Rendezvous with a Poet on Sunday, April 25. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Nanaimo poet to read at virtual Port Alberni event

Rendezvous with a Poet is hosted by Char’s Landing in Port Alberni

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
VIDEO: B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

B.C. Ferries’ sixth Island-class vessel launches at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania. The ship is the second of two that will service the Nanaimo-Gabriola Island route starting in 2022. (Photo submitted)
Second hybrid ferry for Nanaimo-Gabriola route launched overseas

Island-class vessel will enter service in 2022

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine for injection at the Victoria Clipper Terminal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout not enough to bring back normal life by fall: report

Only 51% of the population will be protected under B.C.’s current rollout, SFU professors say more vaccinations are needed to achieve herd immunity

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read