British Columbia

Police and ICBC launch new province-wide campaign to combat distracted driving

Following the recent introduction of tougher penalties for distracted driving, ICBC, the province and police across B.C. are launching a new campaign.

Month-long campaign meant to combat the practice responsible for about a quarter of all fatal crashes in B.C.

ICBC, the province and police across B.C. are launching a new campaign to combat distracted driving. (Getty Images)

Following the recent introduction of tougher penalties for distracted driving, ICBC, the province and police across B.C. are launching a new month-long campaign.

Distracted driving is now responsible for about a quarter of all fatal crashes in B.C.

Police will be ramping up their enforcement and "cell watch" volunteers will be along the sides of roads reminding drivers to leave their phones alone, according to a statement from ICBC.

Police in B.C. will be ramping up enforcement in a new month-long, anti-distracted-driving campaign. (CBC/Dave Croft)

At community events, ICBC will have road safety coordinators who will invite people to try a driving simulation that demonstrates how using a cellphone can affect one's ability to drive safely.

'Plan ahead': police

"Plan ahead, make calls and send messages before you get into your car," said  Delta police Chief Neil Dubord, chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) Traffic Safety Committee (TSC)."

"Turn off your cell phones and electronic devices before you start driving, and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road."

The B.C. government raised the penalties for distracted driving on June 1.

First-time offenders now receive a $368 ticket, more than double the previous fine of $167.

Repeat offenders pay the same $368 but receive escalating penalty-points for each offence within 12 months, as well as an automatic licence review which could result in a driving prohibition of three to 12 months.

There are some exceptions to the rules around distracted driving. Drivers are permitted to use their hand-held devices when safely parked in a place where they are not impeding traffic or when making an emergency call to police, fire or ambulance.

Drivers are also permitted to use hands-free devices, but only if they are not holding their phones and not driving under a novice or learner's licence.

On average, 81 people die every year in crashes in which distracted driving was a contributing factor, according to statistics from ICBC.

Distracted driving is responsible for 27 per cent of all car crash fatalities in the province.

According to one expert, distracted driving, especially texting while driving, will become the biggest cause of youth-driver deaths in Canada in the not too distant future, overtaking impaired driving and speeding.

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