A new poll has found that fewer British Columbians are noticing distracted drivers, but most of them think it’s time to ratchet up penalties on those who still use their cell phones behind the wheel.
The punishment for distracted driving in B.C. is already pretty steep. Drivers caught using an electronic device face a fine of $368 and four penalty points on their insurance penalty point premium worth $252 — bringing the total penalty to $620 for a first-time infraction.
Canadian pollster Research Co. conducted an online survey that found 56 per cent of British Columbians think the current penalty is “about right”, while 24 per cent think it’s too low and 15 per cent think it’s too high.
But 52 per cent of those polled support a stronger deterrent — that those who break distracted driving laws should lose their license for one year — 41 per cent of those polled are opposed to that punishment.
“The notion of suspending distracted drivers for 12 months is contentious on a regional basis,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “While 54 per cent of residents of Metro Vancouver, Southern BC and Vancouver Island like the idea, the proportion drops to 44 per cent in Northern BC and to 42 per cent in the Fraser Valley.”
More than half of those polled are in favour of doubling the first time fine to a total of $1,240 — making it the highest driving penalty in B.C. And British Columbians have no mercy for repeat offenders, 64 per cent of those polled believe repeat offenders should have their devices seized.
The poll did not delve into privacy concerns related to seizing people’s cell phones, or how the penalty should be enforced. No such measure is currently being considered in B.C.
Research Co.’s poll is based on an online study conducted from April 1 to April 5, 2022, among 650 adults in B.C. who are employed full-time or part-time. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is +/- 3.9 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.
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