VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province is getting tougher with people caught driving while distracted.
As of June 1st, those caught with a phone in their hand while behind the wheel in BC will have to pay a minimum of $543. This is the sum of an initial $368 fine (an increase from the existing fine of $167) and the $175 cost to pay off points against the licence.
Each offence will come with four penalty points, up from the existing three.
With a minimum ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium of $520, a second offence within one year will cost $888.
A fifth offence will cost $3,760; a 10th runs $14,520.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone says this can be a life-ruining habit that should be seen in the same light as drunk driving. He adds there are hundreds of tragic stories.
“An 18-year-old that was driving his car — and his parents were in a car right behind him — suddenly swerved into oncoming traffic, had a head-on and was killed right in front of his parents. It turns out, he was on his phone.”
Emailing or texting while driving will become a “high risk offence,” putting it at the same level as excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention.
“L” or “N” drivers will have their driving records reviewed after the first offence, with a possible prohibition of up to six months — longer for repeat offences. All drivers will be subject to a review after the second offence.
The superintendent of motor vehicle is also allowed to prohibit drivers based on referrals from ICBC or police.
Public Safety Minister Mike Morris says the tougher penalties will target irresponsible drivers where it hurts — their wallets and a loss of privileges. He says distracted driving or driver inattention claimed 66 lives in BC in 2014, when more than 600 people were seriously hurt.
Morris adds they will track driver behaviour after these new penalties come into effect and fines could rise again if police aren’t seeing a change.
NDP: Changes should have been made sooner
The NDP’s big question is — why did it take so long?
“We were told, oh, it’s going to come soon, soon,” says NDP house leader Mike Farnworth. “Anyway, it has arrived and I think it’s a good thing. I’m pleased with that. I just think it could have been done a lot sooner.”
As for why immediate roadside prohibitions aren’t part of the equation, lawyer Paul Doroshenko says that’s probably down to the endless legal challenges the province faces for its drunk driving laws.
“They’ve taken a very cautious route here, to avoid finding themselves in court,” says Doroshenko. “The matter is litigated all the time. It’s been to the Supreme Court of Canada. There’s litigation going all the time. There are scandalous stories that are coming out all of the time, and we find all sorts of problems with their tribunal and their method.”