Saint John police ride city bus to spot motorists using cellphones

Saint John police are warning motorists about a new initiative that has officers riding city buses to monitor for distracted drivers.

13 motorists issued tickets as part of Just Drive, a new campaign to catch distracted drivers

An officer watched from a city bus for any drivers talking on cellphones or texting.

A Saint John police officer recently traded in his marked police cruiser for a ride on a city bus to crack down on distracted drivers.

Const. Duane Squires rode a Saint John Transit bus in uniform last week, watched for any motorists talking on cellphones or texting, then radioed nearby officers to stop the vehicles of offenders.

Thirteen drivers were issued citations during the approximately four hours of monitoring over two days, Squires said in a statement.

The new campaign, dubbed Just Drive, "is not over and will continue into the future," he said.

You never know what bus we will be travelling on.- Duane Squires, Saint John constable

"We want to get the message out that distracted driving is dangerous and you never know what bus we will be travelling on."

In New Brunswick, the penalty for operating a motor vehicle while using a hand-held electronic device is $172.50 and three demerit points.

"This fine may be the lowest in Canada," the statement said.

Squires said he observed "several other" offenders last Tuesday and Thursday, but they were not issued tickets, either because traffic was congested or police lost sight of the suspect vehicles.

He noted the make, model, and licence plate number of the motorists who were issued tickets, as well as a description of them, their electronic devices and the location of the violations.

"Many" bus riders voiced support for the new joint initiative by the Saint John Police Force's community response unit and traffic unit, and shared stories about their experiences with distracted drivers, said Squires.

Just Drive was modelled after a similar initiative by York Regional Police in Ontario, he said.