RCMP checkstops target distracted drivers

RCMP in the North will be increasing traffic patrols over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Yukon RCMP Cpl Shawn Pollard says Whitehorse officers caught nearly two dozen people talking on cellphones while driving on Friday. (CBC)

RCMP in Yukon and N.W.T. are targeting impaired and distracted drivers this weekend as part of a national campaign to promote road safety.

During Operation Impact, an annual event which began on Friday and will run over the Thanksgiving long weekend, officers are increasing patrols and enforcement of traffic violations on roads and highways.

Cellphone use while driving is a big target this year, said Cpl. Shawn Pollard of RCMP M Division Traffic Services.

At a checkstop in Whitehorse Friday afternoon, police had already caught about two dozen people talking on their cellphones while driving, and a couple of impaired drivers.

"It is sad, but it's still happening," said Pollard. "We're going to be out here all weekend — all the detachments within the Yukon for sure are going to be out on the highways. Our paperwork's put aside for the weekend and we're out enforcing the laws."

Pollard said other big infractions officers are targeting are dangerous driving offences, including impaired driving, violations related to aggressive driving and not using seat belts.

Yukon's cellphone ban took effect on April 1. A ban on using hand-held devices while driving will take effect in the N.W.T. on Jan.1, 2012.

N.W.T. RCMP Const. Todd Scaplen said officers in that territory would be targeting impaired and aggressive drivers and  enforcing the use of seat belts this weekend, as well as informing drivers about the upcoming ban on cellphones.

The police say there have been 50 deaths and more than 600 injuries over the past five years in Yukon road crashes.

The program is sponsored by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Transport Canada.