Hang up the phone and drive to survive

 | March 4, 2012

British Columbia’s distracted driving law is saving lives and, two years after its implementation, both fatalities and serious injuries related to distracted driving accidents are down by 12 per cent.

The law forbids the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving. Drivers in the graduated licensing program are not allowed to use any electronic devices, including hands-free phones.

However, despite the legislation and public awareness campaigns by ICBC, police and road safety organizations, many drivers still talk on phones and text while driving.

“While the statistics show that we’ve seen a reduction in fatalities and serious injuries, far too many people aren’t getting the message,” says B.C.’s attorney general, Shirley Bond. “If you choose to text or talk on your cellphone when you’re driving, you’re putting your life and the lives of others at risk.”

Chief Constable Jamie Graham, chair of the Traffic Committee of the B.C.’s Association of Police Chiefs agrees that too many drivers still haven’t gotten the message.

“This law gave police another enforcement tool to help make roads safer, but two years later we’re still seeing too many drivers texting, emailing and generally not paying attention behind the wheel.”

A recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ICBC showed that over 50 per cent of the survey’s respondents reported seeing drivers violating the restrictions on hand-held devices several times a day, yet, only 16 per cent admitted to doing the same themselves.

“We need to ask ourselves how we can all be part of making our roads safer,” says Fiona Temple, director of road safety for ICBC. “It comes down to understanding the dangers of driving distractedly, being honest about our own driving behaviours and taking steps to prevent being distracted behind the wheel.”

Evidence shows that talking on a cellphone while driving reduces a driver’s field of vision by 50 per cent and quadruples the risk of causing a crash.
In the last two years more than 46,000 tickets were issued to drivers using a hand-held electronic device.

According to Chief Graham, there’s no reason to be distracted behind the wheel. “The excuses I’ve heard are incredible. The reality is that there’s no valid excuse because distracted driving is entirely preventable.”

Drivers caught texting or e-mailing while driving will receive three penalty points in addition to a $167 fine.