Drivers are advised to put their hand-held electronic devices away, as the Province's new distracted driving penalties hit British Columbia roads and highways today. Now, anyone caught talking on a hand-held electronic device while driving is subject to three penalty points in addition to a $167 fine. This is the same penalty that was already in place for drivers caught texting or emailing.
The new penalty for using a hand-held electronic device covers infractions such as talking on, holding or dialing a cellular phone, operating a hand-held audio player (such as an iPod or mp3 player), or programming a GPS. Penalty points remain on a person's driving record for five years and can result in further sanctions, including prohibitions from driving. Of note, BC's distracted driving legislation also prohibits drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program from using any hands-free device.
RCMP Sergeant Hacker, in charge of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Traffic Services, says his department will not be stepping up enforcement any more than we they been. "However, this issue continues to be an emerging causative factor in collisions," he explains. "Consequently, it remains a focal point for enforcement action."
The fall season is also a time to be aware that distraction is a top contributing factor for drivers in vehicle collisions that involve pedestrians. This is especially important to keep in mind as it becomes more difficult to see pedestrians in dark and poor weather conditions.
"The number of collisions involving the plethora of such devices may require a change in legislation to include more electronic devices and a wider definition of what is considered to be distracted," says Hacker. "Currently the definition is limited to a few devices and or activities."
Distracted driving is the second leading contributing factor of vehicle fatalities in B.C. The Province continues to look at increased fines for distracted driving as part of an overall fine structure review and work is underway to determine what an appropriate amount would be.
- Drivers that accrue more than three points must pay an ICBC driver penalty point premium that starts at $175 and will escalate if they receive more points.
- A driver who receives two distracted driving tickets in a year would pay $634, which is the cost of two fines and a $300 penalty for six points.
- As points build on a person's driving record, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may also identify a driver as high-risk and monitor or prohibit them under the Driver Improvement Program.
- High-risk drivers can receive administrative interventions ranging from warning letters, which say their driving record is being monitored, to prohibitions from driving.
- Distracted driving is the second leading cause of vehicle fatalities in B.C. On average from 2009 to 2013, 88 people were killed due to inattention or distraction while driving each year, compared with 105 for speeding and 86 for driving affected by alcohol or drugs.
- The provincial government, ICBC and police have partnered to remind British Columbians to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The recently launched distracted driving awareness campaign included television, radio and theatre ads, and encourages drivers to put their electronic devices away especially as winter weather approaches and driving conditions require extra care and attention.
- In 2013, police issued 51,200 violation tickets to drivers who were using an electronic device.
- Under the definition of using an electronic device, there is a complete ban on a driver:
- Holding, operating, communicating or watching the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device.
- Sending or receiving text messages or email on any type of electronic device.
- Holding, operating, communicating or watching the screen of a hand-held electronic computing device, one of the purposes of which is to process or compute data.
- As well, BC's distracted driving legislation prohibits drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) from using hands-free devices.
- Police can also issue tickets for driving without due care and attention, or driving without consideration, to drivers who are noticeably distracted or inattentive while operating a motor vehicle and making the road unsafe for other drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists.
- Research shows five seconds of texting while driving at highway speeds is like driving blindfolded for almost the length of an entire football field.
- Some drivers still do not understand that using an electronic device, such as talking on a cell phone or texting, while stopped at a red light is an offense under the MVA.
- To avoid the temptation of using a cellphone, drivers can:
- Make calls and send emails or texts before starting a vehicle.
- Safely pull over and turn off the vehicle before using a personal electronic device.
- During the duration of a trip, turn cellphones off or put them somewhere out of reach.
- Let all calls go to voicemail.
- Ask a passenger to make or receive calls or text messages