Last year, the B.C. government changed distracted driving laws, creating stiffer penalties. The province is now asking people if they think these laws are strict enough.
According to a Road Safety B.C. report, fatalities caused by distracted driving are in decline. In 2009, 363 deaths were recorded and in 2013, 269 “fatal victims of crashes involving driver distraction” were recorded.
B.C.’s distracted driving public consultation provided an opportunity to provide input on B.C.’s current distracted driving laws through an online forum through the months of June and July. From June 16 to July 16, the public was asked a question each week which related to distracted driving issues in B.C. One of the main questions on the forum is “Should drivers be fined higher for texting while driving, given the associated risks?” which sparked debate.
Sgt. Darrin Ramey of the Central Island RCMP Traffic Services said they get an occasional call for distracted driving, but it’s difficult to enforce if the person is on the phone for 30 seconds. It’s also hard to determine if collisions are caused by distracted drivers.
“There are lots of collisions that happen for distracted drivers that we don’t know about,” Sgt. Ramey said.
For the final week of public consultation the public was asked “Is there anything else that you think is important for Government to take into account as it considers changes to the current approach to distracted driving,” which is open until 4 p.m. this afternoon (July 16).
On the forum, some people suggested to increase the fine amount, as B.C. is the second lowest in the country, sitting at $167.
Nova Scotia currently has the heaviest fine in Canada at $579 for “distracted driving” which is defined on the government website as using an electronic device while driving.
“Loretta” a person on the forum posted “I think the penalty for a first offense needs to be swift and harsh – impound the vehicle, lose 5 demerit points and levy a fine of at least $1000 (payable before the vehicle is returned). With swift and harsh penalties, I doubt the same driver would repeat the offense!”
Sgt. Ramey said he disagrees with raising the ticket price. “Everyone wants more fines but no one wants a ticket,” he said.
He said that having a $1000 ticket for distracted driving is “a double-edged sword” because people may be unable to cover the cost. He said “a $1000 ticket would be a huge hit to me.”
Instead, Sgt. Ramey said to provide more law enforcement to catch distracted drivers in the act.
“More police doing more enforcement, I think is the best way,” Sgt. Ramey said.
In the months of January to May, 275 distracted driving type tickets have been issued in the Parksville, Qualicum Beach area, Sgt. Ramey said. This includes things like being rear-ended, not just for electronic use however, he said. These tickets are collated to distracted driving, but don’t necessarily prove the driver is using an electronic device because it is nearly impossible to prove, Sgt. Ramey said.
He said that so many people take driving a car for granted, and that it is of utter importance that a drivers pay attention to the road.
The forum has received 1,789 comments and 21,918 website visits as of July 14.
To see the results of the forum and to provide input go to gov.bc.ca/distracteddriving.