March 7, 2017 by Canadian Underwriter
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the provincial government and police across B.C. are joining forces in March to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.
“Despite tougher penalties and increased education, distracted driving still contributes to more than one quarter of all car crash fatalities in B.C., with an average of 78 people killed every year,” ICBC noted in a press release on Friday.
According to a recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted for ICBC, almost all drivers believe distracted driving has led to an increase in crashes; however, nearly 40% admit to still using their device at least some of the time while driving.
In response, ICBC, police and volunteers have worked together to plan more enforcement deployments across the province, with more than 70 police enforcement events and over 50 Cell Watch deployments with volunteers roadside this month. Cell Watch is an educational initiative aimed at reducing distracted driving in communities throughout B.C. The aim of these enforcement deployments is to give drivers the clear message that “if they drive while distracted, they’re even more likely to be caught,” the release pointed out.
The campaign also features radio and digital advertising, as well as social media posts.
“We anticipate that this will be a significant enforcement effort to crack down on distracted driving since we introduced tough new penalties in 2016,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, in the release. “We believe these new penalties are helping to deliver the message to drivers to put away their electronic devices and focus on the road. Police enforcement efforts like this will help ensure those drivers who persist in breaking the law and use their devices behind the wheel will get caught.”
Last May, the government of British Columbia announced new financial penalties for distracted driving, effective June 1, 2016. The penalties will be calculated using the base fine of $368 (up from $167) combined with escalating ICBC driver penalty point premiums, which start at $175 and four penalty points for the first offence (for a total of $543) and climb for any additional offence within a 12-month period.
Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s director responsible for road safety, said in the release that a driver is five times more likely to get into a crash if using a hand-held phone. “More crashes and distracted driving are putting pressure on insurance rates,” Matthews said. “That’s why we’re committed to finding ways to reduce the number of crashes on our roads, but we need everyone’s help – we all need to commit to driving without distractions.”
According to police data from 2011 to 2015, every year on average, 26 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland; eight on Vancouver Island; 32 in the Southern Interior; and 14 in B.C.’s North Central region. Distraction is defined as “where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors including use of communication/video equipment, driver inattentive and driver internal/external distraction.”
Distracted driving in B.C. (ICBC)