With distracted driving now resulting in more deaths than drunk driving, and the collision rate (and insurance rates) spiralling out of control, the BC government is looking at ramping up penalites again.
BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solictor General Mike Farnworth says BC is watching developments in Ontario, where new penalties have been introduced, including a $50,000 fine and up to two years in the cooler for a distracted driver who ends up killing someone. Says Farnworth, “You have to enforce the rules that we’ve had, hit people in the pocket book, education campaign, and, in the case of distracted driving that causes death or serious bodily harm, look at what Ontario is doing.”
The Insurance Corporation Of British Columbia reports that 25 percent of all fatalities on BC highways can now be pinned on distracted driving. The current penalty is $368 plus four penalty points; repeat offenders also risk 90 day driving bans. But criminal defence lawyer Paul Doroshenko says that piling on higher penalties won’t necessarily deter scofflaws: “The whole idea here is to deter people — we just don’t want people to pick up their phones and be distracted,” he says. “The problem that I see is that we never see the follow-through on enforcement.” And then we also have the selfishness factor: “People don’t think about the morality of the crime, they think about their self-interest. And their self-interest is not getting caught.”
Doroshenko says that more officers out there nailing distracted drivers and enforcing penalties would be a better way to approach the situation. “The governments are great at passing the laws, but not great at giving the police the money they need to enforce the laws.”
A recent poll conducted by Aviva Canada, however, indicated that most British Columbians disagree with that assessment: they believe that the only way to handle people who continue to drive while distracted despite the proven extreme risk is to use babysitting technology such as devices which disable portable electronics while a vehicle is moving. What’s your take?