British Columbia

Distracted driving crackdown starts in B.C.

Police, ICBC and the provincial government have launched a month-long campaign to raise awareness and crack down on distracted driving in B.C.

Deaths due to distracted driving now higher than those caused by drunk drivers in B.C.

B.C. police will be focusing on distracted driving as part of a month-long crackdown throughout March. ((iStock))

A month-long campaign to raise awareness and crack down on distracted driving in B.C. was launched Friday.

The joint campaign from police, ICBC and the B.C. government is in response to the second-leading cause of car crash fatalities in the province — people texting or using their phones while behind the wheel.

Though B.C. outlawed the use of electronic devices while driving five years ago, ICBC statistics show an average of 89 people die on the roads each year due to distracted driving — more than the number killed as a result of drunk driving.

The biggest problem, the police say, is younger drivers.

"We're seeing that new generation, the younger generation, as not being able to give up their electronic devices," Sgt. Dale Somerville of the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs told CBC News.

"That is the source of the problem in the police's opinion." 

Throughout March, police will be making distracted drivers their number one focus — including those using their phones while sitting in stalled traffic or at red lights (also illegal).

The crackdown comes just months after the punishment for distracted driving was increased, adding three penalty points to the standard $167 fine.

Liberal MLA Scott Hamilton says those sanctions could be made tougher still, if drivers don't get the message.

"The British Columbia government may consider further penalties if these initiatives do not translate to improved behaviours," he said.

With files from Belle Puri


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