Editorial: New distracted driving penalties not enough

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris announced the province’s new, tougher stance on distracted driving Monday, with the introduction of a new fine system to take effect June 1.

Starting next month, the penalty for distracted driving will increase from $167 to $543  ($368 fine, plus $175 in penalty point premium). Drivers will also be assessed four penalty points (up from three, currently).

A second offence within a year will cost $888 and it will be $1,600 for a third offence.

Two tickets in a year will also trigger an automatic review by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles that could result in licence suspension.

Morris said the new penalties put British Columbia near the top, in regards to distracted driving fines for Canadian province.

The question is, will it work?

Only time will tell, but we have our doubts.

Monetary fines have never been great deterrents. Then again, the threat of a suspension doesn’t seem to be entirely effective either, when looking at the weekly RCMP report, and seeing every other entry being an impaired driving investigation.

People continue to drink and drive, because they don’t believe they will get caught.

The same can be said for those who use their cellphones while driving. And Bluetooth is not the answer. Talking hands-free is only marginally less distracting, if at all. (If you doubt that, try your Bluetooth while driving in an unfamiliar city – you’ll either lose your train of thought, or miss your turn.)

We’ve said it before, and it warrants repeating. The only way to properly address the distracted driving issue, inasmuch as cellphone use is concerned, is to install cellphone disabling devices in every car, before they leave the factory – a device that makes any cellphone inoperable as soon as the motor is engaged.

The technology is there. You can turn on your living room lights from 3,000 miles away, if you have the correct aapp.

The challenge would be getting the auto industry and the communications industry on board with the process. That won’t be easy.

We imagine the whole mandatory seatbelt thing was not easy either. But it went through – and lives were saved because of it.

–Terry Farrell

 

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