March is Distracted Driving Month and Delta police will be out targeting distracted drivers.
“Checking your phone at a red light may seem harmless, but the truth is using an electronic device behind the wheel is a dangerous distraction,” stated a post on the police department’s Facebook page. “Even when stopped, it affects your situational awareness. You’re five times more likely to crash if you’re using your hand-held phone. When you’re behind the wheel, focus on the road.”
Tougher penalties for distracted drivers take effect this month, alongside the piloting of new technologies, as B.C. does more to combat this dangerous driving behaviour that claims 78 lives each year.
According to ICBC, distracted driving is any activity that impacts a driver’s ability to focus on the road and is one of the top contributing factors in police-reported injury crashes in B.C.
Started on March 1, drivers with two convictions for the use of electronic devices while driving during a three-year period will now face added and higher premiums. They could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties — an increase of $740 over previous amounts — in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.
Two pilot projects exploring how technology can help combat distracted driving are also underway.
ICBC is working with 139 volunteer drivers from across the province on a three-month pilot where drivers will share feedback about their experiences with a small telematics device installed in their vehicle that blocks the use of their handheld phone when they’re driving.
Starting this month, police will also begin to test new distracted driving scopes with further abilities to capture dangerous driving behaviours. Police will be testing the units for usability and effectiveness in all weather and traffic conditions.
The pilot projects will be reviewed to determine next steps in the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving.
“Distracted driving endangers the lives of British Columbians with devastating effects for families and communities,” said Attorney General David Eby. “It also puts significant pressure on insurance rates. Improving road safety is key to creating a sustainable auto insurance system with more affordable rates for B.C. families. We must see cultural shift that sees distracted drivers put down their cell phones and drive.”