Vehicle crashes are up in B.C., costing ICBC more in claims. (Colleen Flanagan/Black Press)

B.C. defends distracted driving crackdown

Lawyer says penalties too harsh for texting at stoplights

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says tough new penalties for distracted driving are based on research that shows the high risk of talking or texting while driving.

Farnworth was responding to a Vancouver lawyer’s claim that distracted driving penalties are too high, after his review of coroner reports found that only 14 people in B.C. were determined to have died while using electronic devices behind the wheel between 2008 and 2016.

Farnworth noted that the problem goes far beyond deaths. Distracted driving is one of the main reasons given to explain the sudden jump in vehicle accident and injury claims that started in 2015 and has pushed up costs at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

“Research tells us that you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting at the wheel and three or four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone,” Farnworth said, citing a report from a U.S. university. “And police-reported Traffic Accident System data tell us that, over the last several years, distraction and inattention have injured 175 people – a dozen of them seriously – on average each week in B.C.”

Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko released a freedom of information request this week showing deaths confirmed by coroners.

“What we see is people who are punished with lengthy driving prohibitions as a result of picking up their cellphones at a set of traffic lights,” Doroshenko said.

RELATED: B.C. hikes distracted driving penalties

The public safety ministry reports that between June 2016 and June 2017, police in B.C. issued 44,000 distracted driving tickets, a reduction of 13 per cent from the previous year. The NDP government announced new measures in November that add up to a $2,000 penalty for getting two distracted driving tickets within three years.

“For these reasons, we’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher,” Farnworth said.

Just Posted

‘Dramatic undersupply’ of workers in Parksville Qualicum Beach: new labour report

Analysis supports what many already know, reinforces need for action: Burden

Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

City issued Manna Homeless Society cease and desist order after complaints from public

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Discarded needles, theft from homes and businesses keep Oceanside RCMP hopping

Crime report also includes cannabis-related infraction

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

B.C. woman allegedly threatens to rip out intestines of American man

A Kamloops-area woman is accused of harassing and threatening to disembowel an American man

B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry, ride-hailing group says

Ridesharing Now for BC says it had hoped the bill would be more customer-driven like in other cities

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Vancouver Island men ordered to pay thousands in fines following deer meat sting

The incidents happened years ago but sentencing was recently concluded.

The Vancouver Island elasmosaur needs your help

Famous Comox Valley fossil hunting for votes in chase to become BC symbol

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Most Read