Tougher penalties on distracted driving went into effect last June but some British Columbians still haven’t got the message.
According to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Reid for ICBC, most drivers agree that distracted driving causes accidents but nearly 40% say they still use their phone behind the wheel.
“That’s why we raised the penalty,” says Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General. “We’ve got some of the toughest penalties in Canada with respect to distracted driving. I’m waiting to see if the numbers are going to come down since we’ve introduced that new penalty scheme.”
The fine for a first time distracted driving offense in BC is now $543.
An initial report in August suggested the increased penalties had resulted in a 12% decrease in distracted driving among northern BC motorists. Morris says they’re waiting on more detailed information about the higher fines deterring people from using their phones while driving.
“If they’re not, I’m going to revisit it and we may have to crank the heat up again. We’re going to be initiating a significant enforcement program for distracted driving. We’re trying to get the message through.”
ICBC, police and volunteers will be working together to put on more than 70 police enforcement events this month and over 50 Cell Watch deployments.
Morris says the campaign against distracted driving reminds him of another landmark public safety push.
“I go back to when we made seatbelts mandatory. Way too many people were being thrown out of vehicles and killed. It took a long time for the message to be inculcated into the brains of our motorists and passengers but it’s working: people are wearing seatbelts nowadays. I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the same thing with distracted driving.”
ICBC is also offering free ‘not while driving’ decals at driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices.