Police Use New Tactic to Enforce Driver Cell Phone Ban

Winnipeg police Constable Steve Bowen cycles through traffic looking for drivers using a mobile device while behind the wheel. (STAN MILOSEVIC / MANITOBAPHOTOS.COM)

Winnipeg police were enforcing the province’s ban on cell phone use behind the wheel on Friday.

Operating near the busy intersection of Inkster Boulevard and McPhillips Street, Constable Steve Bowen rode a bicycle through traffic to get a closer look at which drivers were texting and/or using their phone on their lap.

Once shamefully caught, Bowen directed offending motorists into a nearby parking lot where two other officers were waiting to write up the nearly $200 ticket.

The new program recently started and aims to catch motorists at red lights for not only cell phone use, but other infractions, such as not wearing their seat belts.

Bowen pulled over at least one motorist at each red light cycle.

The ban, which went into effect July 15, 2010, has been challenging to enforce, but city police are finding new ways to ensure safety on the roadways.

In addition to just cell phones, the ban covers smoking in a vehicle where a child under the age of 16 is present. The penalty for lighting up with a child in a vehicle is also $199.98.

In July, CAA Manitoba surveyed 11,000 of its members, who reported that since the ban has been in place, 99.4 percent of respondents still see drivers talking or texting.

On September 7, 53-year-old Winnipegger Mark Derry was killed in a head-on crash by a teenager who was allegedly texting while driving. Last Friday, CAA held a distracted driving initiative to educate high school students on the dangers of not keeping their eyes on the road at all times. Mark’s widow, Cheryl, spoke to the students and shared her personal story on recently losing her husband to something police continually work hard to prevent.

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