ARE distracted driving laws in B.C. tough enough? The government is considering raising penalties for distracted driving and is now asking British Columbians to offer their input with the launch of a four-week consultation that runs from now through July 16.
A new website – https://engage.gov.bc.ca/distracteddriving/ – will collect comments as British Columbians consider whether B.C.’s current fine of $167 and three penalty points is sufficient to deter a behaviour that is now the second-leading contributing factor in motor vehicle deaths on B.C. roads. British Columbians will be able to have their say on questions like:
* Should drivers caught texting face greater sanctions than those talking on a hand-held device?
* Should new drivers or repeat offenders face greater penalties?
* Should sanctions such as prohibitions and vehicle impoundments be considered?
The consultation marks the next step in government’s efforts to stop distracted driving and enhance safety on B.C. roads. Last fall, B.C. increased the penalty points for using a hand-held electronic device while driving, from zero to three, in addition to the $167 fine.
Penalties vary considerably from province to province. In Nova Scotia, the maximum fine amount is $579, while Ontario’s is $500. Ontario has recently passed legislation to change the maximum fine amount to $1,000.
B.C.’s fine amount of $167 is the second-lowest in Canada.
To participate, people are encouraged to visit the distracted driving website or tweet @RoadSafetyBC using hashtag #distractedBC.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said on Tuesday: “This is a chance for British Columbians to tell us their thoughts on distracted driving sanctions and how they would stop this dangerous behaviour. We’ve heard the calls that people want more protection from distracted drivers and we agree there’s more work to be done.
“We took a first step and increased the penalties last fall and now we’re looking at possible changes to the legislation, including more severe penalties. We want to ensure these are set at a level that is fair and effectively changes behaviour. Add your voice and help make B.C.’s roads the safest in North America by 2020.”
Drop It And Drive co-founder Tim Baillie said: “Distracted driving is becoming as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving, and for good reasons. It’s a growing problem with serious risks for everyone on the road, including those people who have survived a crash, but are now living with lasting injuries ranging from the physical to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to being hit by a distracted driver. It will be great to see people sharing their own ideas to prevent injuries and save lives.”
ICBC Vice President of Corporate and Stakeholder Governance Steve Crombie said: “We know some drivers still aren’t getting the message that no call or text is worth risking your life. Engaging with drivers across B.C. is an important step in addressing this serious issue and making our roads safer for everyone.”
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone said: “We want to see a change in driver behaviour. Distracted driving is the second-highest contributing factor in motor vehicle fatalities in B.C. and we want drivers to understand that talking or texting while driving can have fatal consequences. If you are driving, please leave your phone alone and concentrate on the road.”