Tougher penalties for distracted drivers take effect this month, alongside the piloting of new technologies, in support of B.C.’s latest enforcement and awareness campaign against this high-risk driving behaviour. Enhanced police enforcement on distracted driving will also take place across B.C.
ICBC, the provincial government, and police are working together in a commitment to do more to combat this dangerous driving behaviour that claims 78 lives each year. Every year, on average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.
Distracted driving is any activity that impacts a driver’s ability to focus on the road, and is one of the top contributing factors in police-reported injury crashes in B.C. Research shows that electronic device use is the most common distraction that drivers engage in behind the wheel.
“Distracted driving endangers the lives of British Columbians with devastating effects for families and communities,” says Attorney General David Eby. “It also puts significant pressure on insurance rates. Improving road safety is key to creating a sustainable auto insurance system with more affordable rates for B.C. families. We must see a cultural shift that sees distracted drivers put down their cell phones and drive.”
As of March 1, ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium (DRP) program will include convictions for distracted drivers who continue to put road users at risk by using electronic devices while driving. As previously announced, drivers with two convictions for the use of electronic devices while driving over a three year period will now face added and higher premiums. They could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties—an increase of $740 over the previous penalties—in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.
“Distracted driving is a preventable behaviour that has caused too many people and their families to suffer,” says Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher. The changes to the Driver Risk Premium program mean distracted drivers with multiple distracted driving offences will now face added and higher penalties, over and above their regular vehicle insurance premium.”
Two pilot projects exploring how technology can help combat distracted driving in the province are also underway, as announced last fall. ICBC is working with 139 volunteer drivers from across the province on a three-month pilot. Drivers will share feedback about their experiences with a small telematics device installed in their vehicle which blocks the use of their handheld phone when the participant is driving.
Starting this month, police will also begin to test new distracted driving scopes with further abilities to capture dangerous driving behaviours. Police will be testing the units for usability and effectiveness in all weather and traffic conditions.
The recent changes to the DRP program and the technology pilots are just some of the many actions that government, police, and ICBC are taking to make roads safer for all road users in British Columbia. The results of the pilot projects will be reviewed to determine next steps in a thoughtful examination of the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving.
Drivers can do their part by avoiding distractions while driving and encouraging others to do the same. Activate Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, or what’s similarly available on other devices or third-party apps. Free “Not while driving” decals are available at ICBC driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices, so that drivers can support the campaign and encourage other road users to leave their phones alone.
“Since 2010, police have issued more than 300,000 tickets for electronic device use, which tells us that distracted and inattentive driving continues to be an ongoing issue on B.C. roads,” says Superintendent Davis Wendell, officer in charge of E Division Traffic Services and Vice-Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. “In fact, police report that driver distraction and inattention is the leading contributing factor in injury crashes in B.C. And those are all preventable incidents. While driving, there’s no task more important than the one right in front of you: leave all distractions out of driving.”