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BC Government steps up penalties for safer roads, uping ante on distracted driving

By Contributor
May 9th, 2016

Significantly higher fines, more penalty points, and earlier interventions for repeat offenders – including driving prohibitions – will reinvigorate the Province’s push to eliminate distracted driving, a leading factor in deaths on B.C. roads.

The new financial penalties for distracted driving will be calculated using the base fine of $368 combined with escalating Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) driver penalty point premiums, which start at $175 for the first offence and climb for any additional offence within a 12-month period.

“Distracted driving, like drinking and driving, is entirely avoidable, yet too often has devastating consequences,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“Since 2010, when we introduced tough, immediate sanctions for drinking and driving, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. By deploying tough new sanctions for distracted driving, we want to see our drivers, cyclists and pedestrians get home to their families safely as we take another step towards reaching our goal of having the safest roads in North America by 2020.”

Effective June 1, 2016, distracted drivers are subject to the following:

  • Each offence will include the base fine of $368 – up from $167 – and will add four penalty points to a person’s driving record.
  • First-time offenders will face a minimum $543 in financial penalties.
  • Repeat offenders, upon a second offence within 12 months, will pay the $368 fine plus $520, for a total of $888 in financial penalties, which escalate further for any additional offence.

Further stiffening these consequences, distracted driving is being elevated to the threshold for “high-risk” driving offences, making it equivalent to excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention.

Repeat offenders will also have their driving record subject to automatic review, which could result in a three-to-12 month driving prohibition. Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers face intervention after a first distracted driving offence and a possible prohibition of up to six months.

There will be longer prohibitions for repeat offences. The superintendent of motor vehicles also has discretion to prohibit drivers based on referrals from ICBC or police.

These tough new sanctions reflect what government heard during a public consultation in which 90% of respondents indicated they support stronger distracted driving penalties to help make roads safer.

“Safety on our highways and roads is our number one priority,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“While there have been considerable educational and awareness campaigns on the dangers of distracted driving, some people are still not getting the message. Today’s announcement of significantly higher fines for distracted driving and four penalty points sends the message loud and clear – we will not tolerate distracted driving on our roads.”

An ongoing education and awareness campaign and partnerships, including those with law enforcement and ICBC, will also help encourage drivers to change the way they think about distracted driving, with the knowledge that it is high-risk behaviour with potentially fatal consequences.

In 2014, distracted and inattentive driving was a contributing factor in killing 66 people and seriously injuring 630 more on B.C. roads. All of these tragedies are preventable – drivers just need to put down their electronic devices and focus on driving.

Quick Facts:

  • On June 1, 2016, the fine for distracted driving will increase from $167 to $368 and the number of penalty points per infraction will increase to four from three.
  • ICBC Driver Penalty Point premiums start at $175 for the first four penalty points and escalate to a minimum $520 for a second offence.
  • Distracted driving and inattention is a top contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes, along with drug- or alcohol-affected driving, and speeding.
  • During ICBC’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a police road safety unit in Kelowna handed out 37 distracted driving penalties in less than three hours.  
  • The latest numbers, from 2014, show 66 deaths and 630 serious injuries with distracted and inattentive driving as a contributing factor. Serious injury can mean loss of a limb, brain damage, coma and other life-altering medical conditions.
  • Over the past three years, approximately 50,000 distracted driving tickets have been issued annually.

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