Vehicle crashes are up in B.C., costing ICBC more in claims. (Colleen Flanagan/Black Press)

B.C. defends distracted driving crackdown

Lawyer says penalties too harsh for texting at stoplights

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says tough new penalties for distracted driving are based on research that shows the high risk of talking or texting while driving.

Farnworth was responding to a Vancouver lawyer’s claim that distracted driving penalties are too high, after his review of coroner reports found that only 14 people in B.C. were determined to have died while using electronic devices behind the wheel between 2008 and 2016.

Farnworth noted that the problem goes far beyond deaths. Distracted driving is one of the main reasons given to explain the sudden jump in vehicle accident and injury claims that started in 2015 and has pushed up costs at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

“Research tells us that you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting at the wheel and three or four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone,” Farnworth said, citing a report from a U.S. university. “And police-reported Traffic Accident System data tell us that, over the last several years, distraction and inattention have injured 175 people – a dozen of them seriously – on average each week in B.C.”

Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko released a freedom of information request this week showing deaths confirmed by coroners.

“What we see is people who are punished with lengthy driving prohibitions as a result of picking up their cellphones at a set of traffic lights,” Doroshenko said.

RELATED: B.C. hikes distracted driving penalties

The public safety ministry reports that between June 2016 and June 2017, police in B.C. issued 44,000 distracted driving tickets, a reduction of 13 per cent from the previous year. The NDP government announced new measures in November that add up to a $2,000 penalty for getting two distracted driving tickets within three years.

“For these reasons, we’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher,” Farnworth said.

Just Posted

Five Remembrance Day ceremonies getting underway across Central Okanagan

Hundreds anticipated to attend ceremonies in West Kelowna, Kelowna, Peachland, Rutland and Lake Country

Mother and child reportedly trapped inside vehicle in Kelowna collision

Two vehicles collided at Harvey and Burtch intersection

Roll Technologies launches unique brand of e-scooters in Kelowna

The new e-scooter costs $1 to activate and $0.25 per minute

People and pets safe after garage fire in South Kelowna

South Kelowna garage fire put out without incident

Kelowna-based inventor talks about his new apple variety

The Cosmic Crisp is designed to be sturdy, crisp, sweet and tart

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Canada among three G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

It says Canada, South Korea and Australia are the farthest off

Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

That’s five days after Justin Trudeau is scheduled to swear in a new cabinet

Coquihalla, Okanagan Connector drivers cautioned due to freezing rain

Special weather statement in effect for highways between Hope, Merritt, Kamloops and Kelowna

Summerland council considers change to meeting schedule

Proposal calls for afternoon session and 6 p.m. evening session for regular meetings

Last remaining Centurion tank from the Korean War makes its journey ‘home’ to B.C.

Tank arrives in B.C. the day before Remembrance Day after a more than 4,500-kilometre transfer

‘Your vehicle burns a lot of fuel:’ Victoria drivers wake up to angry notes

‘This handbill was left on your vehicle because your vehicle burns a lot of fuel,’ notes read

Most Read