September 3, 2015 by Canadian Underwriter
While the government of British Columbia reviews the province’s distracted driving penalties, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), police and the government are teaming up to launch a month-long campaign across the province.
One in four deaths on B.C. roads involves distracted driving. It is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in the province and a leading cause of crashes with pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, ICBC said in a press release on Thursday. [click image below to enlarge]
This month, “Cell Watch” volunteers will be roadside across the province reminding drivers to leave their phones alone and ICBC road safety coordinators will be visiting community events with a driving simulator the public can try. The campaign also features new radio advertising, digital advertising, which will appear online and in restaurants and bars, and television ads.
TELUS is supporting the campaign and working with ICBC to help educate drivers about the risks of using a cellphone while driving through its smartphone and Internet safety program, TELUS WISE.
“The cost of a distracted driving ticket in B.C. is only $167 – the second lowest in Canada – yet the cost of a distracted driving crash can be a person’s life,” said Suzanne Anton, the province’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, in the press release. “During our month-long consultation, it was clear the public firmly agrees that our fines are too low. We are going to fix this. Over the coming months, we will make our roads safer with tough, fair, and effective sanctions to curtail this alarming but preventable problem.”
According to police data from 2009 to 2013, every year, on average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland, 12 on Vancouver Island, 32 in the Southern Interior and 15 in the North Central region. Distraction is “where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors, including use of communication/video equipment, driver [inattention] and driver internal/external distraction.”
Todd Stone, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, added that drivers are four times more likely to crash if they are using their phone while driving.
And Staff Sergeant Dale Somerville, program manager, B.C. RCMP Traffic Services, said that “even when you’re at a red light or in slow moving traffic – you’re still in control of a vehicle – and the law still applies.”
The campaign comes just two days after the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act came into effect. Among other provisions, the act amends Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act to establish a fine range of $300 to $1,000 for distracted driving and a set fine of $490 and three demerit points upon conviction, with a minimum 30-day suspension for novice drivers. The previous penalty was a $60 to $500 fine. The act also increases the threshold for reporting a property damage collision from $1,000 to $2,000 in combined damage and adds road shoulders to unsafe lane change clauses, with a set fine of $85 ($150 in community safety zones).
Distracted driving in B.C. (ICBC)