British Columbia ups the ante on distracted driving

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Strong penalties for safer roads

Vancouver, BC (May 12, 2016) – Significantly higher fines, more penalty points, and earlier interventions for repeat offenders – including driving prohibitions – will reinvigorate the Province’s push to eliminate distracted driving, a leading factor in deaths on B.C. roads.

The new financial penalties for distracted driving will be calculated using the base fine of $368 combined with escalating Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) driver penalty point premiums, which start at $175 for the first offence and climb for any additional offence within a 12-month period.

Effective June 1, 2016, distracted drivers are subject to the following:

  • Each offence will include the base fine of $368 – up from $167 – and will add four penalty points to a person’s driving record.
  • First-time offenders will face a minimum $543 in financial penalties.
  • Repeat offenders, upon a second offence within 12 months, will pay the $368 fine plus $520, for a total of $888 in financial penalties, which escalate further for any additional offence.

Further stiffening these consequences, distracted driving is being elevated to the threshold for “high-risk” driving offences, making it equivalent to excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention. Repeat offenders will also have their driving record subject to automatic review, which could result in a three-to-12 month driving prohibition. Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers face intervention after a first distracted driving offence and a possible prohibition of up to six months. There will be longer prohibitions for repeat offences. The superintendent of motor vehicles also has discretion to prohibit drivers based on referrals from ICBC or police.

These tough new sanctions reflect what government heard during a public consultation in which 90% of respondents indicated they support stronger distracted driving penalties to help make roads safer.

Are you a distracted driver? If so, be prepared to get hit in the wallet. Effective June 1st, offenders will face stiffer fines, more penalty points and possible driving prohibitions in an effort to eliminate distracted driving – a leading factor in deaths on BC’s roads.

An ongoing education and awareness campaign and partnerships, including those with law enforcement and ICBC, will also help encourage drivers to change the way they think about distracted driving, with the knowledge that it is high-risk behaviour with potentially fatal consequences.

In 2014, distracted and inattentive driving was a contributing factor in killing 66 people and seriously injuring 630 more on B.C. roads. All of these tragedies are preventable – drivers just need to put down their electronic devices and focus on driving.

Graph of distracted driving penalties and escalating costs

Quotes

“Distracted driving, like drinking and driving, is entirely avoidable, yet too often has devastating consequences. Since 2010, when we introduced tough, immediate sanctions for drinking and driving, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. By deploying tough new sanctions for distracted driving, we want to see our drivers, cyclists and pedestrians get home to their families safely as we take another step towards reaching our goal of having the safest roads in North America by 2020.”
– Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

“Safety on our highways and roads is our number one priority. While there have been considerable educational and awareness campaigns on the dangers of distracted driving, some people are still not getting the message. Today’s announcement of significantly higher fines for distracted driving and four penalty points sends the message loud and clear – we will not tolerate distracted driving on our roads.”
– Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

“Every day police throughout the province find drivers using hand-held electronic devices behind the wheel. For the safety of our communities that we have sworn an oath to protect, we must stop distracted driving. For this reason, we welcome these new rules. Police and government continue to tackle this serious road safety issue through education, enforcement and legislation. Drivers need to understand that choosing to use an electronic device while driving can be a fatal choice – stopping this dangerous behaviour will reduce the number of unnecessary and tragic collisions on B.C. roads.”
– Les Sylven, chief constable, Central Saanich Police Services and president, BC Association of Chiefs of Police

“It’s encouraging that the B.C. government has chosen to make significant changes to the penalties for distracted driving; the increase in penalty points should have an impact, particularly on repeat offenders. There is still a lot of work to be done to reduce risky driver behaviour, but these stronger sanctions, combined with enforcement efforts and continued education are definitely steps in the right direction.”
– Karen Bowman, founder and executive director, Drop It And Drive (D.I.A.D.)

For more information, visit the B.C. government’s Road Safety Rules & Consequences of Unsafe Driving.

SOURCE: Public Safety and Solicitor General, Government of British Columbia