Multi-Tiered Penalty Structure for Distracted Driving

Multi-Tiered Penalty Structure for Distracted Driving

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.

Alaska Texting Penalty Table

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
(Note: NOT just texting 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.

5 thoughts on “Multi-Tiered Penalty Structure for Distracted Driving

  1. Larry Ash

    Totally AWESOME!!!! I hope this goes through,I would like the same for DUI as well because this would finally get drivers attention and make them realize diving does need full attention and failure to do so can now be not just be costly for the injured and killed and families,,,,,but now for the driver as well that refuses to follow the Law. Got My Vote!!

  2. Bill Irwin

    Why only for hand-held use when the science shows it is no more distracting than hands-free use? All cell phone use while driving should be penalized the same, and with these tiered penalties, use will stop.

    1. Karen Bowman Post author

      Hi Bill, thanks for your feedback. If you’re familiar with our program, you’ll see that we absolutely do not ignore the risk of hands-free use.

      For the purposes of this particular article I only focused on current B.C. legislation that addresses hand-held electronic devices.

      I am in complete agreement with you, as well as the overwhelming research, that indicates hands-free is every bit as dangerous as hand-held.

      You might find this recent study interesting as well as it speaks to the level of cognitive distraction with just the notification on your phone:

      Cell phone notifications may be driving you to distraction

      Date: July 9, 2015
      Source: Florida State University

      Summary: Just receiving a notification on your cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair your ability to focus on a given task, a new study has found. The distraction is comparable to the effects seen when actually using a cell phone to make calls or send text messages. Full Report: Cheers, Karen

  3. Ron Philp

    I hope to see these updated penalty’s very soon. Too many killed and injured every day.
    I am a professional driver and have been forced off the Hwy a few times by people being distracted.
    Need more unmarked police on the road to catch them also.

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