Peterborough police are paying extra attention to distracted drivers this month as part of traffic enforcement blitz, patrolling busy city streets looking for motorists talking or texting on their cellphone.

On a ridealong Tuesday morning, CHEX News’ Dan Nynik travelled in an unmarked police truck which was patrolling Lansdowne Street, the busiest street in the city.

Officers with the undercover project were wearing plain clothes.

“I’m acting as a spotter,” said Const. Vince Way-nee. “There are uniformed officers further ahead of us and behind us. If we see an infraction, we’ll use our radios and radio over to them to apprehend the vehicle.”

Doing this says Way-Nee, is more effective than using uniformed officers in cruisers.

However, trying the setup in the winter poses some problems.

“We’ve never tried this in the wintertime because it’s a lot harder with dirty windows, snow-covered windows,” said Way-Nee. “Everybody’s got their windows up.”

He and his partner, Sgt. Peter Sejrup, are looking for drivers using their cellphones.

After 30 minutes on patrol, still no luck.

Police say many drivers are under the misconception that they can use their phone when stopped at a red light.

“But they’re still in a live lane of traffic and they can’t be using it,” said Way-Nee. “Only if they pull off the highway into a safe spot.”

When it comes to driver inattention, the two officers say they have pretty much seen it all: drivers putting on makeup, reading the newspaper and even holding a pet on their lap.

“If you were ever in a crash, nothing like getting a dog in your forehead at 200 kilometres per hour because the airbag deployed,” said Serjrup.

An hour into their patrol, the officers located a white pickup truck with the driver talking on his phone. They follow the vehicle to the Lansdowne Mall parking lot where the driver receives a $400 ticket for driving with a hand-held device. On top of the fine is a victim surcharge of $90 and the loss of three demerit points.

Dan Nyznik/CHEX News
Peterborough police stopped this pickup truck after they said they spotted the driver using a cellphone.

Const. Chris Hardill, with the traffic management unit, says drivers are sometimes surprised when officers seemingly “come out of nowhere” to stop them for distracted driving.

“A lot of times they say ‘officer, why did you stop me? I have no idea what’s going on,’” said Hardill. “Then they’re informed of the information that someone had witnessed them down the road in an unmarked vehicle and again that’s why they were stopped and sometimes they can make sense of it a little better.”

Police say the driver they stopped had been stopped twice before for the same distracted driving infraction.

Source: Global News