“On June 1, 2017, the distracted driving laws in British Columbia will change, and the fines and penalties for those caught driving while distracted will increase significantly. In particular, a first time distracted driving ticket will cost $543 comprised of a $368 fine and four demerit points of $175. The offenses increase dramatically for subsequent distracted driving offenses, and more than two such tickets within a 12 month period will mean an automatic review of ones’ driving record and a possible driving prohibition.

Distracted driving has become a leading cause of motor vehicle accident related deaths and injuries in British Columbia and, generally, all over the world. The advent of smartphones and mobile social media platforms, and the pervasive use of such technologies, have led to more distracted driving and resultant accidents.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” It’s not just texting or making calls on a cell phone; any activity that diverts a driver’s attention puts that driver, and her passengers, and everyone else sharing the road at serious risk.

A partial list of what counts as a distraction would include things such as using a cell phone or smart phone, including: texting, eating and drinking, smoking, attending to or disciplining child passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player or adjusting temperature controls.

Research has found that talking on a cell phone quadruples your risk of an accident, about the same as if you were driving drunk. That risk doubles again, to eight times normal, if you are texting.

A 2009 study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration examined commercial vehicle crashes and concluded that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without distraction.

Sending or receiving a text message distracts a driver for about five seconds; at highway speeds, that represents a distance of about 300 feet in which the car is essentially out of human control, driving itself.

According to the NHTSA, over 3,331 people were killed and over 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to distracted driving. That represents 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all accidents that caused injuries. The National Safety Council disputes these findings, and says that at least 28 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by texting and cell phone use alone—never mind other distractions.

Young drivers are at the greatest risk for distracted driving incidents. Some researchers speculate that this is because inexperienced drivers are the most likely to overestimate their ability to multitask. The NHTSA says that in 2009, some 16 percent of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted.

Naturally, an increase in motor vehicle accidents and injury claims arising therefrom correlates with increased insurance premiums for all of us. You can learn more about anti-distracted driving campaigns and efforts to curtail distracted driving in B.C. here: http://www.enddd.org/end-distracted-driving/. “