distracted driving

What You Need to Know About B.C.’s Distracted Driving Crackdown

In November, an image went viral on social media after Vancouver police pulled over a driver who had attached both a tablet and a smartphone to the steering wheel of his car on Cambie Street, near West Broadway.

As they approached the car during a traffic stop, officers noticed the driver had attached his phone to his steering wheel with a piece of string, and wedged his tablet between the wheel and the phone. The headphones were plugged into the phone.

Police gave the driver an $81 ticket for failing to produce a driver’s licence, and removed his electronic gadgets from the steering wheel. Luckily for the driver, police refraining from giving him the standard $368 penalty for distracted driving.

Instead, they decided to teach the driver a lesson by sharing his unusual device set over the internet. The Twitter post was shared over a thousand times, likely educating other drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Now Worse Than Drunk Driving

Distracted driving is no laughing matter. Checking your phone at a red light may seem harmless, but the truth is using an electronic device behind the wheel is a dangerous distraction:

  • You’re five times more likely to crash if you use an electronic device such as smartphone while driving.
  • According to the B.C. government, drivers fail to process approximately 50 per cent of the visual information in their driving environment when they are using electronic communication devices.
  • It’s estimated that distracted driving is a factor in more than a quarter of all auto collisions in British Columbia.
  • Most chillingly: one in four deaths on B.C. roads involve distracted driving.
  • Deaths due to distracted driving are now overtaking those from alcohol-related, collisions, according to the B.C. government.

Auto insurer ICBC says car crashes in B.C. have gone up 23% over the past few years. There were 320,000 auto collisions across the province in 2016 — an average of 875 crashes every day.

Drivers themselves say they think roads in the province have become more dangerous in the past five years because drivers are more impatient, aggressive and distracted, according to a survey.

The government is cracking down. In September, Vancouver Police handed out 1,969 tickets to distracted drivers throughout the city in the span of just one month.

New Fines and Higher Premiums for Distracted Driving

Rules about distracted driving in B.C. have been around since 2010. However, with increasing crashes, which are also increasingly tied to distracted driving, the province has committed to cracking down on the problem.

B.C.’s distracted drivers will get hit with higher insurance premiums, and two distracted driving tickets in a 3-year period could mean penalties up to $2,000. The higher premiums are expected to go into effect for distracted driving convictions beginning March 1, 2018.

Under the new guidelines:

If a display such as a GPS is mounted to the car, it not only matters where but what is displaying on the screen.

Video or television is not allowed to distract the driver’s eye, with the exception of GPS and that can only be used secured and hands-free.

However, the rules are not clearly defined, so it’s better to be safe — and avoid a ticket or seriously injuring someone — by thinking about how you will avoid distracted driving.

How to avoid distracted driving

ICBC has some tips for avoiding becoming distracted by mobile devices when driving in the first place, including:

  • Let calls go to voicemail and ignore your text messages while driving.
  • Turn off your device and put it out of sight to avoid the temptation to check your phone.
  • Pull over to make or receive a call.
  • Choose to activate ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature on your smartphone.

Understand the rules for driving and electronic devices

ICBC also succinctly outlines some of the main rules for distracted driving in B.C., including:

  • You may not use your cellphone while in control of a motor vehicle, even at red lights. Whenever you’re in control of the vehicle, whether stopped at a red light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you may not use an electronic device.
  • Always maintain “hands off when behind the wheel. Hands-free means a Bluetooth, wired headset or speakerphone that can be operated with one touch or voice commands. Make sure to secure the cellphone to the vehicle or attach it on your body before driving.
  • If you have a Learner’s (L) or Novice (N) licence, you aren’t allowed to use any electronic device behind the wheel, even in hands-free mode.

Finally, if you’re the parent of a teen driver this short video also may be a fun introduction to the subject.

For more information about regulations covering distracted driving in B.C., refer to RoadSafetyBC’s factsheet covering how to use electronic devices while driving.