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Canada Uses Giant Camera Lenses to Spot Distracted Drivers

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distracted driving enforcement

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In Canada, British Columbia law enforcement officers are using powerful camera lenses that can see more than 3,937 feet (1.2 kilometres) when attached to a spotting scope to catch drivers who are texting, Dave Dormer has reported for CBCnews.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, similar to the United States’ FBI,  started using the technology this month, from more than three-quarters of a mile away, writes Andrew Liszewski for Gizmodo.

Constable Melissa Wutke said the scopes are placed in strategic spots throughout the province:

Traffic services have used spotting scopes for years but the new part of this technology is now we have a spotting scope we can actually attach a DSLR camera with 24.2 megapixels and a 50-millimetre lens.

Focusing on Stopped Cars

The officers find places to stand with the scopes so that they are out of view of drivers, but still have a good view of the road. They focus the lenses on vehicle windshields so officers looking through the scopes can see the drivers when they stop at a red light or a stop sign. When officers see a driver violating the law, they have him or her pulled over. The lenses have to be trained at vehicles that have stopped because it would be difficult to catch moving vehicles from so far away.

Photographs of the distracted drivers must show the driver’s phone or electronic device in order for the ticket to be viable in court. Wutke explained that if officers can’t see a phone but see a driver looking down, an officer who is closer to the car might approach it, and can issue a violation ticket if they find the driver is using an electronic device.

High Fines for Distracted Driving

In British Columbia, the fine for distracted driving is increasing in June, to $543 for a first offense and $888 for a second one. Wutke made the point that the RCMP is looking for all kinds of distracted driving behavior, not just the use of electronic devices.

Last year during BC’s May long weekend, police gave out more than 200 tickets to drivers using phones. But other forms of distracted driving are also dangerous, including putting on makeup, eating, and even reading a novel, Wutke said. She added that police have seen all of those and more when people are “sitting in traffic.”

Distracted Driving Deaths

In the U.S. in 2014, distracted driving accidents killed 3,179 people and injured 431,000 according to

Colorado has a primary law that bans texting while driving for drivers of all ages, and bans all cell phone use (both talking and texting) for novice drivers (anyone under the age of 18).

Awareness Campaigns

The U.S. has had public awareness campaigns since 2009 to prevent distracted driving. Among the many efforts have been campaigns with such themes as ‘Texting and Driving. Makes Good People Look Bad” and”Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.”

As this blog wrote recently, one of the recent creative ways the U.S. is stopping drivers from distracted behavior is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s new program that sends Twitter messages to people who brag in tweets about driving while distracted.


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