'A serious safety issue': Regina police officer has issued 800 tickets to cellphone-using drivers this year
'People don't seem to get that you can't use your phone' while driving, says Const. Mike 'Hawkeye' Seel
A Regina police officer has already given out nearly as many distracted driving tickets this year as he did in all of 2018 — and he thinks our addiction to the technology is behind a bump in such tickets.
Regina Police Service Const. Mike "Hawkeye" Seel, who is with the service's traffic safety unit, recently handed out his 800th cellphone-related ticket of 2019. He said last year, he issued over 1,100 such tickets.
"It was something I wish I didn't have to do," Seel said.
"People don't seem to get that you can't use your phone, even when you're stopped at a red light — you can't use your phone when you're driving. It's a serious safety issue."
800th cell phone ticket issued this year. The driver apologized and asked for a break at first but when issued the $280 ticket, driver argued he wasn't holding or on his phone. <a href="https://twitter.com/reginapolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@reginapolice</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/justdrive?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#justdrive</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/distracteddrivingkills?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#distracteddrivingkills</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/headsupcellsdown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#headsupcellsdown</a> <a href="https://t.co/Gal0PAYqLD">pic.twitter.com/Gal0PAYqLD</a>—@RPSTrafficUnit
He's far from alone in issuing tickets to drivers using their cellphones. In June, Regina police handed out 919 distracted driving tickets. Of those, 798 — or 86 per cent — were related to cellphone use behind the wheel.
Seel — who often uses humorous memes on his Twitter account, where he posts about some of his interactions with drivers he's ticketed — said he thinks the number of tickets he's handing out is due in part to increased enforcement efforts around cellphone use.
But he also feels addiction to the phones is driving up the numbers.
"Everyone wants to be connected. Everyone feels like we don't have the option we used to 15 years ago, where you had to wait to talk to someone on the phone. You can talk to someone right away and you expect a quick response," Seel said.
"When you're driving, people need to realize that [talking on the phone is] not that important to driving your vehicle."
Female talking on cell phone beside me. I roll my window down and tell her to get off her phone. She point blank tells me "(expletive deleted) OFF!" She says she didn't know I was a cop. $280 fine issued. <a href="https://twitter.com/reginapolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@reginapolice</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/notnice?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#notnice</a> <a href="https://t.co/9eu8DdiHGZ">pic.twitter.com/9eu8DdiHGZ</a>—@RPSTrafficUnit
Because Seel frequently uses the Regina Police Service's unmarked trucks or SUV, he's often sitting at a higher vantage point than other drivers on the road.
This gives him the ability to see into people's vehicles and determine whether or not they're using their phones.
When caught using their phones, people are quite creative in their excuses, according to Seel.
"The common ones are 'well, I was stopped at a red light,' or 'I was just changing the music,'" he said.
Recently, he caught a man who claimed to be inspecting his phone after he allegedly dropped it and cracked his screen. Seel said the man was still on his phone while driving and issued the man a ticket.
Another driver on her phone in rush hour traffic. When pulled over, driver says she was just checking the time. I then point out the accurate time on her large center console display screen. Driver stares at me blankley as she is issued her $280 ticket. <a href="https://twitter.com/reginapolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@reginapolice</a> <a href="https://t.co/k9WhHTqWoP">pic.twitter.com/k9WhHTqWoP</a>—@RPSTrafficUnit
Repeat offenders aren't uncommon either.
Seel said this year, he caught a man who he'd previously nabbed on two earlier occasions for using his phone while driving. That man wasn't even the worst repeat offender — Seel says he caught another woman using her phone while driving four times in just six months.
Earlier this year, he even caught the same man using his phone twice in the span of just one hour.
"It's quite frustrating that people don't learn their lesson," Seel said.
Another repeat distracted driver. I exited my vehicle and walked to drivers passenger window and watched him texting. This was drivers second cell phone ticket in the past 2 months. $280 fine and 7 day impound. <a href="https://twitter.com/reginapolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@reginapolice</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/foolmeonceshameonyou?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#foolmeonceshameonyou</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/foolmetwicestrike3?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#foolmetwicestrike3</a> <a href="https://t.co/pZHe0RSS6B">pic.twitter.com/pZHe0RSS6B</a>—@RPSTrafficUnit
In Saskatchewan, drivers cannot hold, view, use or manipulate their phones while behind the wheel. The fine for distracted driving is $280, plus four demerit points under the Safe Driver Recognition program.
If you get two cellphone tickets within a single year, your vehicle is impounded for a week.
With files from The Afternoon Edition