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New plan aims to combat distracted driving in Canada

Last Updated Mar 2, 2017 at 8:13 am PST

(File Photo)
Summary

National coalition pushes 15-point plan to cut down on distracted driving

Ottawa looks to bring in tougher distracted driving penalties

TORONTO, ON. (NEWS 1130) – A new 15-point-plan being rolled out today aims to make a dent in one of the biggest causes of death on our roads.

The initiative is the idea of the Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving, a national partnership made up of 24 key agencies representing government, police, health, industry and communities.

Distracted Driving: A national action plan

 

“What we’re trying to do is take a more national look at the issue so we can provide information that will help basically make the job easier and facilitate stakeholder activities in this area,” explains Karen Bowman with the anti-distracted driving group Drop It And Drive.

One of those points includes better involving industry. “It’s important to have industry involved but not just the automotive industry but any related industry. We definitely welcome their input,” says Bowman. And that includes vehicle and electronic device industries specifically.

The initiative groups their ideas into four categories: education and prevention, enforcement, data and research, technology and industry. The plan also aims to identify and curb behaviour that leads to distracted driving while also developing things like factsheets to help officers understand the importance of their role in stopping the behaviour.

It also hopes to develop a concrete business case that illustrates the costs to employers associated with distracted driving, which has surpassed impaired driving as a cause of death on the roads.

This week Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau proposed the creation of a tough national standard to help crack down on distracted drivers using their cellphones when behind the wheel.

While dangerous driving is covered under Canada’s Criminal Code, cases involving distracted driving falls under provincial responsibility that can result in fines and demerit points that vary widely across the entire country.

Garneau last week sent a letter to his provincial counterparts calling for stiffer penalties for texting and talking on cellphones while driving. The minister has yet to get a response from provinces. However, he says governments need to act more quickly to this growing issue than it did in the past to combat drunk driving.

Last summer, the BC government raised fines for distracted driving. Those caught with a phone in their hand while behind the wheel now have to pay a minimum of $543. That’s the sum of an initial $368 fine (an increase from the previous 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 and a 10th runs $14,520.