DRIVERS are being advised to put their hand-held electronic devices away, as the province’s new distracted driving penalties hit British Columbia roads and highways Monday. Now, anyone caught talking on a hand-held electronic device while driving is subject to three penalty points in addition to a $167 fine. This is the same penalty that was already in place for drivers caught texting or emailing.
The new penalty for using a hand-held electronic device covers infractions such as talking on, holding or dialing a cellular phone, operating a hand-held audio player (such as an iPod or mp3 player), or programming a GPS. Penalty points remain on a person’s driving record for five years and can result in further sanctions, including prohibitions from driving. Of note, B.C.’s distracted driving legislation also prohibits drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program from using any hands-free device.
The fall season is also a time to be aware that distraction is a top contributing factor for drivers in vehicle collisions that involve pedestrians. This is especially important to keep in mind as it becomes more difficult to see pedestrians in dark and poor weather conditions.
Distracted driving is the second leading contributing factor of vehicle fatalities in B.C. The Province continues to look at increased fines for distracted driving as part of an overall fine structure review and work is underway to determine what an appropriate amount would be.
* Drivers that accrue more than three points must pay an ICBC driver penalty point premium that starts at $175 and will escalate if they receive more points.
* A driver who receives two distracted driving tickets in a year would pay $634, which is the cost of two fines and a $300 penalty for six points.
* As points build on a person’s driving record, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may also identify a driver as high-risk and monitor or prohibit them under the Driver Improvement Program.
* High-risk drivers can receive administrative interventions ranging from warning letters, which say their driving record is being monitored, to prohibitions from driving.