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Five years since BC's distracted driving ban came into effect

(iStock Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Five years ago, BC brought in a ban on handheld devices behind the wheel to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving on our roads.

So, have you texted or taken a call on your handset while on the road since then?

Steve Wallace has decades of experience in the driving school industry and is not afraid to speak his mind when it comes to distracted driving.

If you tell him you are talented enough to text and drive, he says he’ll see you at your funeral.

“Driver behaviour is predictable. In every jurisdiction that has passed a no-texting or no-handheld-device regulation, people have moved their device from above the steering wheel where they can see it and see the road moderately, to between their legs. So, now they are looking down,” Wallace tells News1130.

“In every jurisdiction that has passed a regulation, the crash rate initially goes up by about 25 per cent on average because people are looking down instead of out the windshield.”

Wallace adds he has yet to see a study that has shown a discernible difference between the crash rate with a handheld device and the rate with a hands-free device.

“Effectively, there’s no difference. It’s just that the public has accepted the hands-free model,” he argues.

He wants attitudes to change when it comes to any kind of phone use behind the wheel and believes distracted driving needs to be treated exactly the same as impaired driving.

“Penalties have been increased, but moderately. I can tell you now that the only thing that’s going to stop it is to do the same thing we did with drinking drivers: you lose the car or you lose the phone. In most cases, the jurisdictions that have had any kind of success in curbing the distracted driving scenario is with tough penalties combined with education.”

“You think five years… You know, high school grads in 2010 have already learned enough to complete a university degree,” points out Constable Jeff Palmer with West Vancouver Police. And yet, some people are still struggling to understand that if they drive distracted, they can put themselves at risk.”

He says in West Vancouver alone, officers have written about 2,800 distracted driving tickets since 2010.

The fine for distracted driving is $167 under the BC Motor Vehicle Act. As of October 2014, three driver penalty points were added.

Statistics show approximately a quarter of all car crash fatalities in BC between 2009 and 2013 were related to distracted driving.

Distracted driving is the second-leading cause of motor vehicle fatalities in BC, behind speeding and narrowly ahead of impaired driving.