ICBC, police exploring how technology can help combat distracted driving

WITH insurance rates in B.C. under escalating pressure, in part from the rapidly increasing number of crashes occurring on our roads, the provincial government, ICBC and police are launching two pilots to explore how technology can help combat distracted driving in our province.

Phone apps paired with telematics on B.C. roads

The first pilot – a partnership between government and ICBC – will include up to 200 customers using phone apps paired with telematics. Telematic technology involves fitting a vehicle with a small device that communicates with an app installed on the driver’s cellphone. The app works to block the use of a handheld device when the in-vehicle technology senses that the vehicle is being driven.

The combination of telematics with phone apps typically has allowed insurers to collect driving behaviour data, such as kilometres travelled and average speed. However for this pilot, ICBC is interested in the user’s experience with telematics in their vehicle.  Findings from the pilots will be used to inform future decisions around distracted driving prevention and enforcement, as well as changes to improve the fairness of how insurance rates are set.

In the coming weeks, ICBC will confirm two to three vendors whose technology will be used during the pilot, which is set to launch in January with results prepared in the spring of 2018. The technology to be used in the pilot was determined to be the most promising based on a review of submissions from a Request for Information ICBC issued in the spring.

For the pilot, ICBC will recruit volunteers from its customer advisory panel. Customers are encouraged to join ICBC’s customer advisory panel through icbc.com for an opportunity to participate in this pilot and future e-surveys to share opinions about ICBC products, services and policies. ICBC is looking for participants ages 19 years and up, from all across B.C.

Police test Bluetooth-enabled distracted driving scope

Government and ICBC will also be working in partnership with police to conduct an additional pilot to test a new distracted driving enforcement technology beginning in the spring of 2018. A Bluetooth-enabled scope will be the latest tool police will have on-hand to capture distracted driving. Units will be tested by police in varying weather and traffic conditions for usability and effectiveness. The scope will capture an image that can be instantly shared with other officers in the immediate area. That officer will then have the ability to show the image to the distracted driver.

These pilots are some of the many actions that government, ICBC and B.C. police are taking to reduce crashes caused by distracted driving.

David Eby, Minister responsible for ICBC and Attorney General, said on Tuesday: “Distracted driving is a high-risk behavior that jeopardizes the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike. These pilots are the first step in a thoughtful examination of the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving. I look forward to the results to help us better understand their potential to influence driver behaviour and inform changes so insurance rates are set fairly.”

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said: “Distracted driving is a serious high-risk behaviour, which is now responsible for more than 25 per cent of all car crash fatalities in our province. If new technology can help police and drivers alike put an end to distracted driving, then we’ll have helped to make roads safer in B.C.”

Mark Blucher, ICBC’s President and CEO, said: “While we’re eager to find ways to reduce distracted driving through this pilot with our panel, you don’t have to be part of the pilot to make a difference now. You can do that every day by simply taking a break from your phone. Apps are already available, including the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, on iPhones and some Android devices. ICBC’s rates are under considerable pressure and one of those reasons is a significant increase in crashes, many of which are the result of distracted driving.”

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