VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Defying BC’s distracted driving laws will soon cost you as much as driving drunk.
The province is designating distracted driving as high-risk behaviour. That means you’ll have to pay as much as $2,000 if you get pulled over for using a hand-held device more than once in three years. That’s $740 more than the current penalty, and on top of what you’re already paying for insurance.
Karen Bowman with the group Drop it and Drive welcomes the changes, which are set to take effect March 1st.
“Ultimately, the goal is to change behaviour. Everybody is motivated by something different. Some people will be motivated by the higher fines. Other people are motivated by perhaps an emotional connection to the issue.”
The penalties are separate from car insurance premiums and will be levied even if an individual does not own or insure a vehicle.
Attorney General David Eby says the changes will put distracted driving on par with excessive speeding and driving while impaired.
He notes if somebody with a BC licence is caught driving while distracted outside of this province, that offense will not count towards the total number in a three-year period. “As far as I understand, the provision relates to tickets received in British Columbia for distracted driving — so, it’s two or more tickets in British Columbia.”
Eby says right now, about 12,000 BC drivers have racked up more than one offence during a three-year period. Other numbers provided by the government show it’s is a factor in one out of every four fatal crashes, killing nearly 80 people every year in this province.
“On a nation-wide scale, all the provinces are working really hard to address the problem,” says Bowman. “It’ll definitely be interesting to see what steps the government takes [and if it] starts to create the behaviour change that we need to see.”
Don’t expect this to bring in a lot of money to offset ongoing financial losses at ICBC, as higher fines won’t bring in more than $5 million a year.
“That’s like, 0.1 per cent of ICBC’s problem right now, financially. This is not driven by trying to recover those costs. It’s being driven by the reality of increasing safety on our roads and the facts that so many fatalities are caused by this kind of conduct,” says Eby.
However, repeat offenders could lose their license for at least three months to a year.