B.C. to test apps that disable phones in moving vehicles
Published Tuesday, November 28, 2017 12:50PM PST
The B.C. government's efforts to curb distracted driving in the province just got a little more high-tech.
On Tuesday, the province announced it will be testing new apps that block texts and calls in moving vehicles.
"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," Ministry of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said in a statement.
"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."
Conducted in partnership with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the pilot program will include up to 200 volunteers whose cars will be fitted with small devices that communicate with their smartphones, disabling them while the vehicle is in motion.
Similar technologies have been used in the past to collect data on driver behaviour such as average speeds and distances travelled. The results of this project, however, will specifically be used to help reduce distracted driving, the province said.
The results will also be used "to improve the fairness of how insurance rates are set," according to the statement.
In August, the province said it wants ICBC to reward drivers who voluntarily disable their cellphones behind the wheel.
In the meantime, ICBC says you don't have to be part of the program to contribute to road safety.
"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," said CEO Mark Blucher. "You can do that every day by simply taking a break from your phone."
Several apps that disable smartphones in moving vehicles are already available. These include the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature on iPhones and some Android devices.
ICBC is set to confirm two or three vendors whose technologies will be used in the pilot project in the coming weeks. The initiative itself will launch in January and results will be ready in the spring.
The apps are one of two new technologies the government is testing as part of its efforts to crack down on distracted drivers.
The second includes a Bluetooth-enabled scope that will allow law enforcement to capture distracted drivers in the act and instantly share the images with other officers in the area. Officers will also be able to show the image to the distracted driver as proof of the offence.
Testing for that technology is set to launch in the spring.
"Distracted driving is a high-risk behavior that jeopardizes the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike," Attorney General and minister responsible for ICBC, David Eby, said in the statement.
"These pilots are the first step in a thoughtful examination of the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving."