I believe that causing a crash, injuring someone or killing someone because of distracted driving should be a game changer when it comes to penalties. Personal accountability should play a huge role in how we look at addressing distracted driving.
‘What if the distracted driver who caused the injury or death was the one who had to inform the family.’ -Karen Bowman, Founder & Executive Director, Drop It And Drive
B.C. residents and stakeholders just weighed in on the penalty structure for distracted driving thanks to a month-long public consultation process. A whopping 96% of respondents want to see stiffer penalties with almost 90% concerned about distracted driving. 96% also feel that there should be stronger fines for drivers receiving multiple distracted driving citations.
The consultation data will be analyzed, options drafted and then left in the hands of the B.C. government to take the next steps.
There is overwhelming support from the public for stronger measures to address distracted driving. I hope the next steps will be swift and involve a significant increase in fines as well as other penalties including higher demerits and other deterrents.
Let’s look for a moment to our northern neighbour, Alaska, for some inspiration on this issue. Following a quadruple fatality caused by a driver distracted with his DVD player, they created a tiered approach. Alaska state troopers typically hand out run of the mill fines for texting while driving. However, their law allows them room to dish out appropriate consequences when texting while driving escalates to causing injuries or fatalities.
My proposal for how B.C., and quite frankly, the rest of Canada, can consider addressing distracted driving takes a page from Alaska’s law books. We definitely need to address the severity of penalties for driving distracted. However, a tiered approach for when distracted driving causes injuries or deaths may inspire a level of personal accountability that is needed to curb the behaviour.
This also addresses those who feel driving while distracted isn’t a big deal because “they’ve done it for years and never caused a crash” and certainly addresses the repeat offenders.
Here’s how it would look:
Use Of Handheld Electronic Device While Driving
|Use of handheld electronic device while driving only||$500 + 3 demerits||Double the fine for each repeat offence,
e.g. 2nd offence – $1,000 + 3 demerits,
3rd offence – $2,000 + 3 demerits;
4th offence – $4,000 + 3 demerits
|Injure someone||Up to $50,000||PLUS up to 5 years in prison|
|Seriously injure someone||Up to $100,000||PLUS up to 10 years in prison|
|Kill someone||Up to $250,000||PLUS up to 20 years in prison|
Do you think this would get the attention of those who continue to drive distracted?
Driving is a privilege, not a right…it’s one that comes with enormous responsibility that should be taken a lot more seriously.
AT&T just released their ‘Close to Home’ PSA as part of their ‘It Can Wait’ campaign; it’s about the devastating consequences of a simple ‘glance’ at the phone while driving.