B.C.’s minister of public safety says distracted driving penalties will be ‘strengthened’ this spring
Using a mobile device while behind the wheel is going to be the number one cause of fatal car accidents for teenage drivers in B.C. and across Canada — and that’s why the penalty for distracted driving has to be more severe, says a driving school CEO and instructor.
“Texting … will quickly become in Canada the chief cause of death behind the wheel for teens,” said Steve Wallace of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island.
He said that is despite B.C. having some of the “most stringent testing regulations” on the continent for drivers.
“We’ve got the hardest driving test in all of North America, plus we have the longest learning stage,” he said.
“As far as ICBC’s rules and regulations are concerned they’re probably doing the best they can … but there are other stats that are really troubling.”
Wallace said he saw statistics at a recent driving school conference in the U.S. that indicate texting behind the wheel is killing an alarming number of teenagers.
Using data from police-reported crashes in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 10 per cent of all drivers, 15 to 19 years old in fatal accidents were distracted at the time. The group made up the largest proportion of distracted drivers.
A study that same year by researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center reported that texting while driving surpassed drinking and driving as the leading cause of teenage deaths — stating that 3,000 teens die each year in crashes caused by texting while driving, as compared to 2,700 teens killed in drunk driving accidents.
Penalties should be the same
That, Wallace argues, is why more should be done to prevent young drivers from picking up their phone while behind the wheel.
“We usually lag two to three years behind the U.S.,” he said. “It is time that the penalties for texting [and driving] are exactly the same as impaired driving.”
Currently, the fines in B.C. for using an electronic device while driving, and emailing or texting while driving, are both $167 and three driver penalty points.
Driving while impaired can result in a licence suspension and vehicle impoundment ranging from three days up to 30 days, and fines ranging between $200 and $400 — if the driver’s blood alcohol level is between 0.05 and 0.08.
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