Distracted driving is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in BC and a leading cause of increasing claims and insurance rates with ICBC. Police statistics show that a quarter of all car crash fatalities in BC in the last five years were related to distracted driving: attention being diverted from driving tasks. That’s an average of 81 deaths per year, behind speeding (94) and narrowly ahead of impaired driving (78).
Effective June 1, 2016, the fine for a distracted driving violation ticket increased to $368. The number of associated penalty points applied to a driver’s record has also increased to 4 points. On a first infraction, this will also result in a driver paying an ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium of $175. For a second infraction within a one-year period, not only does the driver have to pay another $368, but the ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium will increase to $520.
Distracted driving infractions have also been added to the list of high risk driving infractions that trigger early intervention and driving prohibitions through the Driver Improvement Program (DIP). Experienced drivers who incur two or more infractions within 12 months will be considered high risk and their driving records will be reviewed by DIP, potentially resulting in a 3-12 month prohibition. New and Learning drivers who incur one distracted driving infraction will also be considered high-risk, and will be reviewed by DIP, potentially receiving a 1-6 month prohibition.
According to section 214.2 of the Motor Vehicle Act, a driver cannot operate a hand-held electronic device while driving — that includes checking voice mail, making music selections, programming a GPS or looking up phone numbers. In fact, you can’t even hold the device in your hand while operating a vehicle. Also, there are restrictions on how an experienced driver may use handsfree. In addition to a Bluetooth or wired headset, you can use the speakerphone but the phone has to be securely attached to either you (a belt clip or in your pocket) or to the car; you can’t have it in your lap, loose on the seat beside you or in the cup holder.
New Drivers and Learning Drivers are prohibited from using any electronic device while driving – including navigation and handsfree – unless they are safely parked and off the roadway or calling 911.
Activities that impact a driver’s ability to focus on the road come in a wide range of forms, from visual distractions inside and outside the vehicle, to cognitive distractions when using electronic devices. In fact, research indicates that drivers fail to process about 50 per cent of the visual information in their driving environment when they are using electronic communication devices.
Drivers, even really good drivers, need to concentrate on the road at all times because the unexpected, such as a vehicle ahead quickly stopping, a pedestrian crossing the street without warning or cars quickly passing or merging, can happen at any time.
While the law exempts drivers needing to call 9-1-1 to reach the police, fire department or ambulance service about an emergency, it does not apply to personal situations like an ill child or other urgent matters. It has to be a real emergency requiring emergency response providers.
The best way to stay safe is to not use your phone at all, but if you must take a call, use a hands-free electronic device and keep the conversation brief. Stay safe Kamloops!