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B.C. government may crack down on distracted driving

Some British Columbia residents are concerned that there is a huge disparity in penalties for distracted and impaired driving. While the province has the harshest penalties in Canada for individuals convicted of drunk driving, those found talking on a cellphone or texting while driving are assessed a meager $167 ticket in spite of statistics suggesting that distracted driving is surpassing impaired driving as a leading cause of death for B.C. motorists.

In the wake of some 81 deaths in B.C. tied to distracted driving -- compared to 56 on account of impaired driving -- some individuals have proposed harsher penalties that scale with each successive offence, such as a $500 fine that doubles with each new ticket, and the province's justice minister has alluded to an imminent crackdown on the part of the B.C. government. The minister suggested that drivers have a "different level of awareness" when it comes to distracted driving than they do for impaired driving, regarding the latter as something they know not to do while seeming to regard the former with a casual attitude. A Saanich police sergeant echoed this sentiment in a remark about the high number of repeat offenders who don't seem to be put off by the fine.

The correlation between statistics relating to distracted driving-attributed car accident deaths and the number of citations issued for distracted driving may indicate a disturbing trend to some. Since 2010, the number of tickets issued -- some 157,000 of them -- has been steadily climbing each year, and while the number of deaths caused by distracted driving as decreased by a small margin, the proportion of all fatal accidents attributable to distracted driving has increased annually and now reportedly comprises almost 30 per cent of all fatal car accidents.

While it may take some time for a shift to occur as far as how seriously B.C. motorists take distracted driving in spite of potentially higher penalties and the growing body of research attesting to its danger, individuals and their loved ones who have been injured in a Smyth: Glaring gap between penalties for distracted vs. impaired driving", Michael Smyth, April 06, 2014

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