Manitoba RCMP nab 77% more distracted drivers in latest crackdown than last year

In an annual crackdown on distracted driving, Manitoba RCMP say officers handed out 77 per cent more tickets than last year.

RCMP handed out 310 distracted driving tickets in April, up from 175 during 2016 blitz

About 77 per cent more drivers were caught driving distracted by Manitoba RCMP during April's Distracted Driving Month blitz than last year, police said. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

In this year's annual crackdown on distracted driving, Manitoba RCMP handed out 77 per cent more tickets than last year, the police force says.

RCMP handed out 175 tickets in April 2016 for distracted driving, while last month officers nailed 310 drivers for the offence.

RCMP Traffic Sgt. Mark Hume said most people know distracted driving is dangerous but they think they're immune to the risks.

"I find people just have the attitude nowadays that it's not going to happen to me," said Hume.

Manitoba has some of the harshest penalties in Canada for distracted driving, which includes using a hand-held device or eating while behind the wheel.

If convicted, the offence carries a $203.80 fine and results in five demerits.

"I think if you asked most people to close their eyes and drive a football field with their eyes closed they would never, ever do that. But in essence that's what they're doing every time they look down at their phone," said Hume.

"You look down for a split second on your phone and you could be running over a kid or an animal or hitting another vehicle."

While the problem of distracted driving doesn't seem to be getting much better, the jump in tickets between last April and this year might also be explained by more better policing.

"This year, our enforcement has been stepped up compared to previous years. I think we put an extra focus on it this year," Hume said.

Police are using new enforcement techniques, including the use of unmarked SUVs and pickup trucks, to catch drivers with wandering attention.

Hume said the biggest problem group for distracted driving tends to be younger people.

"The 20- to 30- or 35-year-olds. The older folks aren't as addicted to their smartphones," he said.

During April's Distracted Driving Month crackdown, RCMP focused on drivers using phones.

Other distracted driving behaviours include drinking, smoking, using a GPS map, reading and personal grooming, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

with files from Susan Magas