Punishment increasing for distracted drivers

Fines and points skyrocketing on June 1, prohibition possible

Distracted driving has overtaken impaired driving as the second leading cause of car crashes on British Columbia roadways.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) states distracted driving contributes to an estimated 81 deaths in crashes every year in the province.

British Columbians have told the B.C. Liberal government they have had enough of these distracted-driving incidents, which are growing in leaps and bounds.

We don’t have to drive very far down any street or highway in the province before we see, or have to deal with, a distracted driver who is endangering the wellbeing and lives of the people he or she shares the roadway with.

While distracted driving can include anything from adjusting a GPS unit or tuning a radio to having an unsecured animal in the car, the most common offence is using an electronic device, such as a cell phone for calling or texting.

B.C. law states drivers cannot send or read text messages or e-mails while driving; make or receive calls unless using a hands-free device; or hold or operate any electronic device while driving.

Despite the laws and fines starting at $167 and three points for a violation, the message is not sinking in with too many drivers.

Well, the good news is the penalties are about to increase and distracted drivers, who are caught, are going to be digging deeper in their pockets and possibly be prohibited from driving.

The new financial penalties for distracted driving will be calculated using the base fine of $368 – up from $167 – combined with escalating 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, distracted drivers are subject to the following penalties.

Each offence will include the base fine of $368 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, when they have 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.

On June 1, distracted driving is being elevated to the threshold for “high-risk” driving offences, making them 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.

Hopefully, the financial pain will result in safer roadways.

100 Mile House Free Press