nb-sj-police-construction-traffic-sting

A Saint John police officer posing as a construction worker kept an eye out for motorists who were speeding, using hand-held phones, or not wearing seatbelts. (CBC)

A Saint John police officer posing as a construction worker helped nab several unsafe drivers in the act on Thursday.

Police handed out 30 fines during a two-hour sting operation on the city's east side.

"It's sometimes difficult for officers to catch people while they're on their cellphones when they're passing in their own patrol vehicle," said Sgt. Jeff LaFrance.

"So … we have an officer out in a construction site dressed as a construction worker, and he's spotting people on their cellphones, or not wearing their seatbelts properly, or any other violation as well," such as speeding.

Many of the tickets were for distracted driving, said LaFrance. Cellphone users just don't seem to be getting the message that talking or texting while driving is illegal, he said.

"The fine's $172.50 and three points. A hands-free device is around $50 to buy. You do the math."

Illegal for past two years

New Brunswick's ban on cellphones and other hand-held devices came into effect two years ago and seemed to help initially, said LaFrance.

"There was a fairly significant reduction in people we saw on their cellphones," he said. "About three to four months after that law, they slowly started creeping back, and now there's a large number of people that are out, on their phones."

Police say distracted driving was to blame in several accidents this summer.

And while most cellphones now have Bluetooth capabilities, Bluetooth and other hands-free accessories simply aren't selling, according to Tanya Boyer, of Bell Aliant.

Last month, for example, less than five per cent of the cellular invoices have a Bluetooth attached, she said.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Saint John area resident Sheila Lafford. "I have kids so it's, you know, it's very dangerous."

Chuck Read admits he doesn't always use Bluetooth as he should. "I use it where I'm holding the phone in my hand," he said.

But his wife, Nancy, said she keeps an eye out for him using his cellphone hand-held. "And then you know what I say? Stop that!"