EDITORIAL: Smartphones driving many to distraction

ICBC, province hope even steeper distracted driving penalties sends stronger message

Our technologically advanced and dependent society has created a monster, by instilling in people a perceived need to stay in touch with family, friends and the world around them on an almost constant basis.

Today that electronic link is predominantly made through one’s smartphone. While the increased and instant access can have many advantages, it has created a habit in many people to respond, or at least glance at who has communicated with them, even if that happens while driving or sitting at a traffic light.

RELATED: B.C. to hike distracted driving penalties by $740

Having done their best in recent years to raise awareness about the dangers of doing so, through advertising, enforcement campaigns and fines, the province and the ICBC ramped up their message this week by announcing steeper fines for distracted driving.

On Monday, B.C. Attorney General David Eby said distracted driving will soon be designated “high-risk,” which means that two such tickets in a span of three years could net drivers a $2,000 penalty. Distracted driving infractions include using an electronic device while driving, and emailing or texting while driving – drivers must be safely and clearly pulled over out of traffic, parked with the vehicle not running. Both infractions currently come with a $368 fine and four points, which adds $175 onto the total.

Get caught more than once after March 1 and you’ll face a fine into the thousands, over and above whatever ICBC deems your appropriate insurance rate should be. It’s an expensive lesson and certainly shows how serious the province is about removing this potential cause of serious crashes.

“Distracted driving continues to put people in danger and [puts] significant pressure on insurance rates for all drivers,” said Eby, adding that it needs to be treated on par with impaired driving and excessive speeding.

With distracted driving a factor in one-quarter of all car crash deaths in B.C., and about 12,000 drivers having been issued more than one such ticket over a three-year period, it’s clear that a heavier message needs to be sent.

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