|Rob Laird shows his cellphone in Okotoks, south of Calgary. (Jim Wells, QMI Agency)
CALGARY - Following a suspected drunk driver who was weaving all over the highway near Okotoks, retired Mountie Rob Laird grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911.
But Laird said he was shocked when after taking his information, the RCMP dispatcher told him to hang up and stop following the suspect SUV as Laird was breaking the province's new distracted driving law.
"In all my years (of policing) I never saw anyone drive like this," said Laird, who was an RCMP officer for 10 years in Okotoks, High River and Calgary.
"Completely over into the left-hand lane forcing vehicles to take the ditch and shoulder, then back again and down into the other ditch where I thought 'he'll end it here and roll it' but this went on for a long ways.
"Finally we pulled up to a traffic light by Okotoks and stopped so I wrote the licence plate down and phoned 911.
"I told the girl I was going to witness a fatal accident."
After giving the dispatcher the plate number and a description of the vehicle, Laird said he was told not to follow the vehicle any longer as he was breaking the law himself.
"She said 'are you on hands-free?' and I said 'no, I'm not' and she says 'sir, I want you to hang up because you are breaking the law and I want you to cease following that vehicle.'"
Laird didn't listen, however, and after hanging up, said he followed the SUV to Black Diamond.
"I watched him get out and stagger and fall and grab his golf clubs out of the trunk and stagger into the house and basically get away with this crime," he said.
Given the gravity of the situation, Laird said the police should have been more worried about a potential drunk driver than his holding a cell phone to his ear.
"My understanding of the law is if you are calling about an emergency, you can use your phone," he said.
But that's not entirely true, explained RCMP spokesman Tim Taniguchi.
"It basically says the use of a cellular phone or other communication device (is allowed) for contacting an emergency response unit by an individual driving or operation a vehicle," he said.
"What we do is if a person calls from a vehicle using a wireless device, that's a contact, we get sufficient information to effect a police response."
Taniguchi said police got enough information from Laird -- the licence plate, vehicle make and colour -- to begin investigation, which is now ongoing.
"We cannot allow the driver to follow a vehicle while on a phone because that's going against the legislation," he said.
"The best situation would be to have a hands-free device or allow a passenger to use the phone and relay information."
On Twitter: @SunDaveDormer