British Columbia considers increasing distracted driving penalties

The British Columbia government is considering dramatically increasing penalties for distracted driving.

The government of British Columbia is looking at new ways of discouraging distracted driving in the province. According to the Chilliwack Times, the province is considering a variety of measures, including stiffer fines, licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment, as ways of cracking down on distracted driving. Despite increasing penalties for the offence last year, distracted driving continues to be one of the leading causes of car accidents in British Columbia and police say that with new in-car technologies and gadgets becoming available the problem is likely to only get worse.

Increasing penalties

An online survey was posted by the government earlier this summer to gauge public opinion concerning distracted driving penalties. According to the Vancouver Sun, the survey, which was open until July 16, garnered 12,000 visits in its first two weeks alone – an exceptionally high number that appears to reflect a broader recognition that distracted driving is becoming a daily nuisance on the province’s roads and highways.

While the results of the survey have yet to be released, the province is eyeing a number of ways of cracking down on distracted drivers. In addition to potentially increasing fines, the province is mulling more serious measures, such as suspending the driver’s licences of repeat offenders and impounding vehicles.

Other provinces

Currently, British Columbia has the second-lowest fine for distracted driving in Canada, at $167. Nova Scotia, by contrast, has fines ranging from $234 to $579 and Ontario has passed legislation that will soon increase its maximum distracted driving fine to $1,000. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, impounds vehicles for seven days if a driver racks up two or more distracted driving citations within one year.

While British Columbia last year added three demerit points to its current fine, police say that using a smartphone while driving is still widely prevalent in the province. For many people, in fact, a $167 fine is simply “the cost of doing business.” In 2014, for example, police handed out 55,100 tickets for distracted driving, up from 53,000 the year before. Distracted driving is now second only to speeding as the cause of fatal traffic accidents in the province.

Part of the problem is that while police try to combat distracted driving, new technologies are becoming available that seem to be contributing to the problem. Dashboard video screens, for example, allow passengers – and, more worryingly, drivers – to watch movies while on the road. Meanwhile, wearable technology, like Google Glass and the Apple Watch, are presenting new challenges in the fight against distracted driving.

Car accidents

Using a handheld device while driving may appear harmless to many motorists, but far too often what at first seems like a minor distraction can quickly lead to a serious accident. Anybody who has been hurt in a car accident, especially if it may have been caused by a distracted driver, should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer can help accident victims deal with their ICBC claim and assist them in fighting for the maximum compensation to which they may be entitled.


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