A Vancouver man who racked up 26 tickets and fines of $4,300 for distracted driving has raised questions over the efficacy of the penalties currently in place.

Police say the 59-year-old man's violations — which all took place since 2010 —​ led to a driving ban. He was arrested and his car was impounded when he allegedly violated that ban.


A Vancouver man racked up 26 tickets and fines of $4,300 for distracted driving before his car was finally impounded. Do the penalties need to be stiffer?

"The driver was suspended for two months by the superintendent of motor vehicles," Sgt. Randy Fincham said. "And following that, on March 30, he was stopped again in Vancouver. He was ticketed. He was arrested for driving while prohibited under the Motor Vehicle Act and his car was impounded for seven days."

Fincham said he hopes that after having his car impounded, the man will finally get the message that cellphones should not be used while driving.

As dangerous as drunk driving

Would stiffer penalties help get that message across? Jennifer Schulenberg, a sociologist at the University of Waterloo, thinks so.

"This behaviour is as serious as driving under the influence, but our legislation hasn't kept pace with that fact," she told CBC News.

"The only way we can have the teeth to truly prevent what we saw in Vancouver, with 26 infractions, is for it to become a criminal offence much like driving under the influence."

Using an electronic device while driving in B.C. carries a fine of $167 and three demerit points. Other provinces fine offenders as much as $400.

Ontario Provincial Police have said that distracted driving is the "No. 1 killer on the roads." The OPP said 78 people died in crashes related to distracted driving on roads they patrolled in 2013, compared with 57 deaths related to impaired driving and 44 related to speed.

Should offenders be publicly shamed?

In San Francisco, Brian Singer has taken an extreme approach to the issue.

TWIT Spotting (Texting While In Traffic), a blog that posts images of people driving while on their cellphones, has begun plastering those images on local billboards in an effort to shame the offenders publicly.

Singer, a graphic artist, started the blog after becoming incensed at the behaviour he witnessed during his morning commute.

"It sort of blew my mind how many people were actually driving distracted, doing something with their phone or applying makeup," he told CBC.

"The frequency of it was so great, so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to let other people know just how rampant it is, because I don't think people realize exactly how common it is." 

He started the blog in February and recently upped the ante by purchasing billboard space along his local freeway.

MAP: Distracted driving penalties across Canada

View Distracted driving map fine data in a larger map

With files from CBC's Natalie Clancy