VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s being called the largest ever enforcement crackdown by local police and ICBC as yet another distracted driving blitz gets underway today.
ICBC says more than 800 crashes happen every day in BC and the insurance corporation claims many of them are caused by distracted driving. In an effort to help cut down on that number, officers will increase enforcement province-wide as it appears many people still don’t get the message.
NEWS 1130 spoke with drivers and it was difficult to get anyone to admit they actually pick up their phone to make a call, read a text or surf the Web when behind the wheel or at a red light — which is illegal.
“Me? Absolutely not. When I drive I turn it off. I don’t want to risk my life or that of others. I’m not distracted at all,” explains one man who isn’t surprised to see other people on their phone on the road.
Others say it’s never them on the phone, but always the person in the lane next to them. “I don’t feel comfortable. I want to concentrate when I’m driving, so there’s no point in using a cellphone,” adds one driver who thinks people reach for their phone out of habit.
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Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord says most people think of distracted driving as only being texting or talking on the phone, but he explains there’s more to it than that. “There are other types of distracted driving which are just equally as dangerous. And that would be when people are putting make-up in cars that would be other distractions that would take our attention away from the focus of the road.”
Eating behind the wheel is also a distraction and he says they do keep an eye on your local drive-thru. “Typically… you’ll see officers give a tremendous amount of discretion because it’s a very low speed and typically in a restaurant parking lot. But eating when you’re on the road can be a distraction, depending on how you’re driving — you may certainly see officers take some sort of enforcement action.”
National push for stiffer penalties
The BC blitz is taking place as Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau is proposing 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.
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.