Province wants your thoughts as it looks to beef up distracted driving laws

Photo by FrankieLeon, Flickr

Distracted drivers have the attention of the B.C. government again and it’s ready to hear what the general public has to say about them.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton believes people aren’t getting the message about the dangers of distracted driving, noting it is still a major cause of road carnage.

“Over the next four weeks, we want to hear from British Columbians. Tell us, are our distracted driving laws tough enough?” Anton said.

Fewer people now die on B.C. roads as the result of drunk driving than distracted driving, which has become the second leading cause of death on BC roads. Distracted driving is now associated with 88 fatalities a year.

The government is considering raising penalties and is looking for public input with the launch of the four-week consultation.

At $167, the B.C. fine is the second lowest in the country and it pales in comparison to the maximum in Nova Scotia of $579.

“What’s fair, what will stop this high risk behaviour? How do we increase public awareness?” said Anton.

“I compare it to seat belts. When seat belt legislation came in, not everybody was compliant.”

Last fall, the province increased the driver’s license penalty points to three for using hand-held devices for driving, but is now considering following Ontario’s lead and boosting penalties significantly.

Ontario is now taking steps to double its penalty to $1,000, although the Minister has said in the past that penalty is too steep.

“People may say the fines should be something enormous,” she said.

“We have to be reasonable in what the fine needs to be.”

A B.C. website has been set up to collect the feedback until July 16, and the public will also be able to have a say on whether people caught texting should face even stiffer penalties than those caught talking on hand-held devices.

To give your input, visit http://engage.gov.bc.ca/distracteddriving.