Vancouver/Abbotsford/Chilliwack – Are distracted driving laws in B.C. tough enough? Government is considering raising penalties for distracted driving and is now asking British Columbians to offer their input with the launch of a four-week consultation that runs today through July 16, 2015.
A new website – https://engage.gov.bc.ca/distracteddriving/ – will collect comments as British Columbians consider whether B.C.’s current fine of $167 and three penalty points is sufficient to deter a behaviour that is now the second-leading contributing factor in motor vehicle deaths on B.C. roads. British Columbians will be able to have their say on questions like:
- Should drivers caught texting face greater sanctions than those talking on a hand-held device?
- Should new drivers or repeat offenders face greater penalties?
- Should sanctions such as prohibitions and vehicle impoundments be considered?
The consultation marks the next step in government’s efforts to stop distracted driving and enhance safety on B.C. roads. Last fall, B.C. increased the penalty points for using a hand-held electronic device while driving, from zero to three, in addition to the $167 fine.
Penalties vary considerably from province to province. In Nova Scotia, the maximum fine amount is $579, while Ontario’s is $500. Ontario has recently passed legislation to change the maximum fine amount to $1,000.
B.C.’s fine amount of $167 is the second-lowest in Canada.
How to participate:
To participate, people are encouraged to visit the distracted driving website or tweet @RoadSafetyBC using hashtag #distractedBC.
- Following this consultation, RoadSafetyBC will consider the feedback in its recommendations for any revisions to distracted driving penalties in B.C.
- B.C. introduced its distracted driving legislation five years ago. The penalties for using an electronic device were increased in October 2014 to a $167 fine and three penalty points.
- In 2014, police issued approximately 55,100 tickets to drivers who were caught using an electronic device behind the wheel – in 2013, they issued about 53,000.
- Under the definition of using of an electronic device, there is a complete ban on a driver who is:
- holding, operating, communicating, or watching the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device, including devices that process or compute data.
- sending or receiving text messages or email on any type of electronic device.
- B.C.’s distracted driving legislation also prohibits drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program from using all hand-held electronic devices, including hands-free.
- An estimated 9,500 drivers in B.C. are using a hand-held electronic device at any given time, and 40% of them are texting or emailing while driving.
- Texting or using a smartphone while driving is more distracting than talking on one – the crash risk is 23 times higher for drivers who tex