Alberta RCMP say the risks of being distracted behind the wheel are not resonating with many motorists in the province.

CTV Calgary was invited on a ride-along with RCMP in Airdrie on Thursday as part of distracted driving awareness month where police are ramping up enforcement.  The detachment utilized an unmarked, raised van to illustrate how motorists behave when they don’t know they’re being watched.

“This raised platform allows us to see what they're doing,” said Sergeant Darrin Turnbull.“It allows us to covertly observe, see what the driver is doing when the police are not around and then take the appropriate enforcement action to try and change that behaviour.”

Turnbull says cell phones can prove too tempting for some motorists and examples are easy to find. “Just look left and right when you’re driving your own vehicle. It’s actually scary how often and how much we see it. We’re working hard to get the message out.”

“You need to leave the phone alone. If you’re driving, just drive.”

Melody Battle knows all too well the dangers of distracted driving. While on her way to work in Rocky Mountain House in May of 2013,  the then teenager decided to text her boss to let them know that she was running late. With her eyes off the road, her vehicle collided with a road grader.

“I didn’t even get to press the send button,” recounted Battle.

The crash had a profound impact on her life.  “I have mild epileptic seizures and a very traumatic brain injury.” Battle spent more than a year in hospital.

“If you are texting and driving, you could not only kill yourself, you could kill someone else. I had to be in hospital with so many people that had been injured by other people who were texting and driving and hit them. It was sickening.”

In 2018, RCMP and sheriffs of the Alberta Integrated Traffic Units issued 4,344 distracted driving tickets with a fine of $287 and three demerit points.

“That’s a huge number of distracted drivers,” said Turnbull. “Each one of those drivers are risking their lives, the lives of their passengers, and the lives of all the other people around them by making the decision and allowing themselves to be distracted while they’re driving. ”

With files from CTV’s Ina Sidhu