Police launch month-long distracted driving crackdown
The B.C. government and police launched a new province-wide distracted driving campaign in Vancouver Thursday using a grimly symbolic SUV plastered with cell phones.
Lindsay Matthews of the Insurance Corporation of B.C. said each of the phones covering the wrecked SUV represents one of the 437 people killed by distracted driving in the province between 2009 and 2013.
Distraction now kills and injures more people annually than impaired driving, and Matthews said it’s time people viewed both behaviours as equally reckless.
“We need to move ahead with distracted driving and make it as socially unacceptable as impaired,” she said. “Anyone who drives while distracted is putting themselves and others at risk.”
One in four deaths on B.C. roads involves distracted driving, according to ICBC.
The agency also warned there are ways to get distracted behind the wheels that don’t involve phones, including paying too much attention to passengers or pets, eating and drinking, or personal grooming.
For the month of September, police across the province will be ramping up enforcement, while ICBC focuses on advertisements and public education.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Dale Somerville reminded motorists they risk a $167 fine and three driver penalty points if they’re caught.
“If you’re on the phone, you’re distracted. Are you going to see us doing the enforcement out there? Probably not,” Somerville said.
Provincial laws against distracted driving apply everywhere, he added, including at red lights.
Over the summer, the B.C. government held a public consultation to collect feedback on whether distracted driving penalties should be increased to potentially include vehicle impoundments and licence suspensions.
The vast majority of respondents were in favour of escalating sanctions for repeat offenders, according to the province.
B.C. is also mulling whether to increase its fine, which is currently among the lowest in Canada. By comparison, Nova Scotia’s maximum fine stands at $579.