YARMOUTH, N.S. – The RCMP are looking to raise awareness over the issue of cellphones and distracted driving and they’ve enlisted the help of elementary students.
And when the RCMP asked, the Yarmouth Central Elementary students had plenty of reasons about why people should put down their cellphones when they’re driving.
Constable Devran Damla is pleased to see the kids and RCMP team up. He is new to Yarmouth and has only been an RCMP member for four months.
“As a new member I have to do a project that involves the community. I like traffic enforcement work and it came to my attention that a lot of people are using their cellphones,” he says. “The rate of accidents involving cellphones is high and people are getting injured and there’s been fatalities.”
People aren’t just making phone calls on hand-held devices, they’re also texting, checking emails, logging into social media, taking photos, etc.
Const. Damla has produced a pamphlet that provides facts about distracted driving due to cellphones that will be used as a local tool by the RCMP when they are carrying out enforcement. The pamphlet points out that in 2016, there were 140 serious motor vehicle collisions, some involving fatalities, in Nova Scotia that were attributed to cellphone use.
When traveling in a 50 km/h zone, by just looking at your phone for five seconds, you will have travelled a distance of about 70 metres. A lot can happen in five seconds, Const. Damla says.
“I just wanted to open the eyes to the people to not use their cellphones, but not just by the police saying to stop doing it but to open their eyes that kids are aware of it,” he says. “We’re not a good example for kids when we use cellphones and they look at us.”
And so the students were invited to draw pictures about why cellphones and driving don’t mix. These photos will appear on the backside of the pamphlets that will be distributed by the RCMP.
“Please don’t use cellphones while driving. I want to play safely in the neighbourhood,” reads one message. “Please watch for me,” reads another.
“I thought that it would be nice to participate in this project because it would help people to stop being in accidents,” says student Georgia Fougere. “My picture was of a little girl and her older brother, and her older brother was on his phone all the time and so he got into an accident.”
Student Felicity Gaudet-Snow says there are people who don’t know to stop calling and texting when they’re driving, which can lead to accidents.
“I drew a picture about a cat going across the road and there was a guy on his phone texting. There was a girl yelling stop. I put an angel up in the sky that said, ‘Drive without texting.’”
Student Olivia Clairmont hopes this pamphlet project will stop people from texting and driving.
“I drew a picture of two people in a car and the adult wasn’t on the phone,” she says. “I thought that would be a great idea to tell people not to be on the phone.”
Const. Jeff Chartrand, who does a lot of work in local schools, says involving students in awareness campaigns is good because the kids will talk to their parents and families about what they’ve learned so the message is further spread.
“And for us it’s part of our initiative to bridge the gap, build community relations with the students,” he says.
Central school principal Stephen Cullen is happy to see the students and RCMP working together.
“I think that it’s great that the children are doing a public service and the RCMP are using us to promote a message that is very important – distracted driving,” he says.
Const. Damla hopes the distracted driving message will be even more powerful because of the involvement of the students.
He also notes in the pamphlet that under the Motor Vehicle Act of Nova Scotia, a first offence for using a cellphone while driving is a $237.50 fine and it goes up from there to $582.50 for a third offence along with four demerit points on conviction.