An estimated 25 percent of the car accident fatalities in British Columbia between the years of 2009 and 2013 involved distracted drivers. In addition, an average of 12 people each year are killed on Vancouver Island in distracted driving accidents, according to the Times Colonist.
In an effort to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents, the BC government is mulling tougher restrictions and harsher penalties for drivers who engage in distracted driving behavior. The hope is that a government crackdown would bring a sharp drop in the number of car accidents involving distracted drivers. Of course, drivers can also take action on their own to manage common driver distractions and reduce risk to self and others. An alert and attentive driver is far less likely to be involved in a serious or fatal collision.
Proposed Distracted Driving Penalties
In an effort to get feedback from the public on how existing restrictions and penalties should be changed, a discussion was initiated on the BC’s distracted driving consultation website. What this discussion revealed was that most people in BC believe the existing penalties for distracted drivers are too low to be effective in deterring this reckless behavior.
BC apparently has one of the lowest distracted driving fines in Canada, with drivers currently only facing penalties for the use of a hand-held device. These penalties include a $167 fine and the possibility of three demerit points on a driving record. If the fine for distracted driving can be increased to at least $200, or as high as $750, drivers may not be as willing to engage in activities that distract them from the task of driving.
Vehicle impoundment is one penalty being looked at by the BC government in instances where drivers are found to have been texting or talking on a cellphone while operating a vehicle. Another proposal involves roadside license suspensions, such as those given to alleged drunk or drug-impaired drivers.
Driver Distractions Pose a Significant Risk
One of the pitfalls of living in a technology-driven society is the constant desire to remain connected at all times, and the belief that it is necessary to multi-task. These days it’s a rare moment indeed when people are completely free of the distraction of computers, tablets or smartphones. Even when people are traveling, family, friends and co-workers often expect them to have a cellphone close to check emails and text messages. Many people also eat or drink while driving to save time.
Distractions may be fine when you are at work or home. But it’s dangerous to multi-task, text, talk on a cellphone, eat, groom, or engage in other driver distractions while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. That conduct significantly increases your chances of being involved in a deadly car accident. Driving requires visual, manual and cognitive attention. Even when a driver takes only a few seconds to glance down at his or her phone, that momentary distraction can have a catastrophic result.
How to Manage Common Driver Distractions and Stay Focused on the Road
As BC lawmakers look at harsher penalties for distracted drivers, all drivers can learn how to stay focused on the road ahead. These tips can help you drive more safely and with fewer distractions:
- Do not attempt to multi-task while driving. If you have work to do or calls to make, do it either before you leave or after you arrive at your destination.
- Put away your mobile phone or other electronic devices while driving, or install an app that will restrict the use of your device while you are on the road, that lets others know you are not currently available.
- If you are hungry or thirsty, pull off the road to eat or drink rather than trying to drive and consume food or beverages.
- Enter your destination in your GPS, adjust the radio, and any other task involving in-vehicle systems, and check your mirrors prior to getting your vehicle in motion.
- Secure all children, pets and loose articles safely before you leave.
- Discourage passengers from engaging in activities which could distract you from the task of driving. Get their assistance to make your trip distraction-free.
- Get sufficient sleep and do not allow yourself to daydream or drift off. If you feel yourself losing focus, pull safely off the road and get some rest. You could save a life – possibly your own, or someone you love.
Drivers need to be aware of any activity which prevents them from being able to dedicate all of their attention to driving is a distraction. Avoid those distractions and your chances of being involved in a serious or deadly accident will be significantly reduced.
- Times Colonist: C. Considers Tougher Crackdown Against Distracted Drivers