Starting Wednesday, if you ride the bus in Regina, you could have a police officer riding alongside. Officers aren't monitoring activity on the bus; they will be watching drivers.

'Operation Bus Cop' is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan. Regina police traffic unit members will be riding the bus to catch distracted drivers.

The initiative follows in the footsteps of police in other Canadian cities who have used public transit in a similar fashion.

Bus officers used across the country

Police forces in Quebec City, Thunder Bay, Ont., Victoria and York Regional Police, outside of Toronto, have used this tactic.

Insp. Randy Slade of York Regional Police said if an officer spots a motorist with a phone, he radios to another officer in an unmarked car who will pull the driver over.

"The drivers, of course, are a little taken aback. In our province, it's a $490 fine and three [demerit] points," he said. "It goes without saying that they're not necessarily in the best of moods."

But they can always choose not to use their phones and avoid the ticket, he said.

One of the advantages for police is that on a bus, they can safely focus on the task at hand.

"We're not distracted by driving in a vehicle," Slade said. "We have free range in a bus."

Sometimes passengers on the bus will pitch in, pointing out distracted drivers to the officer, he noted.

Slade said the program is a combination of education and deterrence. It will take about a year before police have gathered the statistics to know if their initiative is deterring people from the behaviour, he said.

Warnings first, tickets later

Regina police officers will begin with warnings to raise awareness. Starting on  March 1, though, and through the entire month, tickets will be handed out as 'Operation Bus Cop' rolls out in earnest.

SGI is partnering with Saskatchewan police forces to focus on distracted driving in the month of March.

The ticket for distracted driving is $280.

On Jan. 1, the province's new laws aimed at fighting impaired driving went into effect, which included an expanded definition of prohibited cellphone use while driving. Now, you aren't allowed holding, viewing, using or manipulating a cellphone while driving as opposed to simply using a phone.

Distracted driving by the numbers

Although impaired driving remains the No. 1 factor in fatal collisions in Saskatchewan, distracted driving surpassed speed as the No. 2 factor in 2015.

That year, there were 33 fatal distracted driving collisions resulting in 36 deaths. That was 14 per cent of all fatal collisions.