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Crash numbers edge upwards despite stiffer distracted driving penalties
Published Tuesday, November 8, 2016 5:59PM PST
Stiffer penalties for distracted drivers appear to have done little to quell the number of crashes in B.C. in the first five months.
The province rolled out tougher penalties in June, bumping up the base fines to $368, more than double the previous fine of $167. The BC Liberals also increased the number of penalty points for distracted drivers, and introduced new fines for repeat offenders.
The idea was to bring down the rate of collision, but in the first four months of the new penalties, the province's paramedics responded to 13,087 crashes.
The number is up slightly from the same period from June to October last year, which saw 12,861 crashes. The 2016 numbers show an increase of 1.76 per cent.
Paramedics responded to a total of 29,656 in all of 2015, and had responded to 24,735 this year, as of the end of October.
While the laws are still fairly new, and the data obtained by CTV News did not specify how many crashes from June to October listed distraction as a factor, the province admitted that there is still work to be done.
"We need to continue on enforcement," said Amrik Virk, Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead and minister of technology, innovation and citizens' services.
"We need to look at more strict enforcement options and we have to look at the awareness and education side."
Although polls conducted before the penalties increased suggested most British Columbians supported a crackdown, it may take time to change people's driving habits.
Pat Rosen, owner of bike shop Kelowna Cycle, said distracted driving is a common topic in the cycling community, something he hears about every day.
"You see people on their cellphones, whether it's up to their ear or they're blatantly texting," he said.
"We talk about that, or a customer comes in and talks about a close call, or somebody that has been hit by a car."
The Insurance Corporation of B.C. warns that distraction kills and injures more people annually than impaired driving.
Distracted driving is most often thought of as texting while behind the wheel, but the definition also includes making or receiving phone calls on the road unless using a hands-free device. Drivers can also be fined for using any other type of electronic device while driving, typing on a hand-held GPS system, applying makeup or fixing hair, or any action that takes their attention away from the road.
More information on the distracted driving rules and definitions is available on the province's website.
The B.C. RCMP offers tips, answers frequently asked questions and dispels myths on its page, including whether drivers are permitted to text while stopped at a red light.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Kent Molgat