B.C. government, ICBC and police launch distracted driving campaign

 THE B.C. government, ICBC and police on Thursday launched a distracted driving campaign with new advertising and increased police enforcement.

On average, 88 people are killed each year in B.C. due to driver distractions. That makes distracted driving now the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C., trailing behind speed and narrowly ahead of impaired driving.

“Both enforcement and advertising are ramping up to help reinforce a simple yet vital message: if you’re driving, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road,” said Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “There really is no excuse for looking away from the road for a text, call or other distraction. Changing driver attitudes about distracted driving is critical to saving lives and achieving our goal of having North America’s safest roads by 2020.”

The campaign includes new television and radio advertising, theatre ads to run prior to movies in the Lower Mainland and PSAs. ICBC has also developed a decal for customers to display on their vehicles as a statement to other drivers that they don’t use their cellphone while driving and encourage others to do the same. Decals are available at ICBC driver licensing offices across B.C. and participating Autoplan broker locations.

“Texting or chatting on your cell phone while driving creates a much greater crash risk,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “In fact, you’re four times more likely to crash if you’re using your phone while driving. We are asking drivers to leave their phones alone and stay focused on the road. A text or a call is not worth risking your life over.”

Police across the province are cracking down on distracted drivers this month. Cell Watch volunteers will also be reminding drivers to leave their phones alone and visiting community events with a driving simulator that the public can try.

“We all know distracted driving is dangerous yet many people still aren’t getting the message,” said Superintendent Denis Boucher, “E” Division Traffic Services, RCMP and Vice-Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. “Every day we see drivers using their phones. The law applies whenever you’re in control of the vehicle – even when you’re at a red light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you’re still driving.”

Studies show distracted drivers find it difficult to maintain lane position, a consistent following distance and speed, and their reaction time is significantly reduced. A recent Ipsos Reid survey, conducted on behalf of ICBC, showed that 84 per cent of B.C. drivers who own cell phones agree that texting while driving is risky, yet 25 per cent admit doing it.

“Most rear-end crashes resulting in injuries are caused by distracted drivers,” said John Dickinson, ICBC’s Director of Road Safety. “Distracted driving is a growing concern as more people become dependent on staying connected and automatically reach for their phone when they hear a text message or phone call, even if they’re driving. Getting people to leave their phone alone while driving will go a long way to making our roads safer and in reducing claims costs and insurance rates.”

For more tips and information on this year’s distracted driving campaign, visit www.icbc.com