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Insurers applaud Quebec’s tougher stance on distracted driving


February 21, 2018   by David Gambrill


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Canadian property and casualty insurers are pleased that Quebec is proposing new distracted driving rules, including stronger penalties as a deterrent, as part of a larger package of proposals to beef up the province’s Highway Safety Act.

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said it was pleased to note that distracted driving was among the issues addressed under the new act. “Our members, the P&C insurers, have noted the increase in the number of collisions caused by distracted driving in recent years,” said Pierre Babinsky, IBC’s director of communications and public affairs in Quebec.

Babinsky told Canadian Underwriter Wednesday that insurers believe a two-prong approach is necessary to curb distracted driving – education and deterrence. “What we were hoping to see, and what we see in the Quebec’s government’s proposal, is a combination of both, which we feel is the best way to see some significant results,” he said.

For some drivers, education is not enough, said Babinsky. “We’re seeing a lot of awareness campaigns directed at drivers, and we’re seeing there is some effect,” he said. “However, awareness doesn’t work on everyone, and so we have to cover not only those people who will be influenced by awareness campaigns, but we have to consider those who need deterrent and penalties to modify their behaviours.”

On the deterrent side, Quebec’s proposed Bill 165, s.433.1, bans drivers from “using a portable electronic device or a display screen,” except under certain circumstances, including hands-free communication, or screens integrated into the vehicle and/or required to drive the vehicle. A driver who is holding a portable electronic device “in hand or in any other manner” is presumed to be using the device.

“The previous penalties, $80 to $100 for driving and texting, were certainly not something that we considered sufficient deterrent,” Babinsky said. “If we are in the range of $600 and a possible immediate suspension for a certain amount of time, certainly those who are not influenced by awareness campaigns will be after they get their first ticket.”

The maximum fine under the proposed law is $600 for texting and driving. Those who reach the maximum fine can have their license suspended for one week to a couple of months.

In addition, police can immediately suspend a driver’s license for up to three days if someone has been previously convicted for distracted driving anytime up to two years before the second offence. The suspension increases to seven days if someone has been convicted two times in the past two years prior to an offence. A 30-day suspension is possible for three or more distracted driving convictions prior to an offence.

In addition to stronger penalties, “more awareness campaigns will be welcome,” Babinksy said. “Hopefully building even more awareness during a driver’s education…The younger you start to change certain behaviours, the more lasting the effect will be. So, we hope by exposing people to the dangers of distracted driving through education, through awareness, and with adequate deterrents within the law, we feel that we have the tools to get things to change.”