September 1, 2016 4:52 pm

Top 5 misconceptions about distracted driving as seasonal campaign kicks off

WATCH: Police are launching a new crack-down and awareness campaign on distracted drivers.

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Many British Columbians are aware of the province’s distracted driving laws, but how many know what actually constitutes distracted driving?

With the school year around the corner, the roads are bound to get busier, and the B.C. government, police and ICBC are kicking off a seasonal campaign to crack down on distracted drivers.

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Despite increased fines and ramped-up public education, it seems many violators still can’t leave their phone alone.

One of the biggest misconceptions that multitasking drivers still hold is that using your phone while stuck in traffic or waiting at an intersection is OK.

According to ICBC, the law applies whenever you’re in control of the vehicle— even when you’re stopped at a light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ultimately, when you’re stopped at an intersection or slowed in traffic, you’re still driving.

Here are the other top four misconceptions that B.C. drivers seem to still hold about distracted driving:

“It’s okay to use some of the other features on my phone while driving.”

Under the law, drivers can’t use any hand-held electronics while driving — that includes checking voice mail, making music selections, programming a GPS or looking up phone numbers.

In fact, you can’t even hold the device in your hand while operating a vehicle.

“Emergency calls are okay.”

While the law exempts drivers needing to call 9-1-1 to reach the police, fire department or ambulance service about an emergency, it does not apply to personal situations — it has to be a real emergency.

“Using the speakerphone is okay.”

Drivers are allowed to use hands-free cellphones and devices, but there are restrictions on how.

In addition to a Bluetooth or wired headset, you can use the speakerphone but the phone has to be securely attached to either you (such as with a belt clip or in your pocket) or to the car; you can’t have it in your lap, loose on the seat beside you, in the cupholder, and so on.

Holding your phone in one hand and steering with the other is illegal and unsafe.

“The law is the same for all drivers.”

While most drivers are allowed to use a hands-free device, drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) are not. They have greater restrictions to help them stay focused on the road while they build their driving experience.

This means no use of personal electronic devices at any time, including hands-free phones.

As of June 1, B.C. drivers face a first-time distracted driving ticket of $543; which consists of a $368 fine and four demerit points worth $175.

A second distracted driving ticket within 12 months will pay $368, totaling $888. A third offence would cost a driver more than $3,000.

On top of that, if you collect more than three points on your driving record in 12 months, ICBC will charge you a Driver Penalty Point (DPP) premium.

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