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

More than 115 people attend UVic blood drive

Canadian Blood Services says UVic is a target location to create lifetime donors

Potential for Greater Victoria sewage project to go over budget

“Our confidence [in meeting budget] is not high”

Home care complaints up 45% on Vancouver Island

Number of home care hours delivered down 6%, complaints up 45 %

City of Victoria endorses potential class action lawsuit against fossil fuel giants

Data will be gathered to quantify how much environmental damage the city has faced

Residents push back on downtown Victoria tree removal

The birch tree at the Wharf-Government intersection will be removed to make way for bike lanes

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

9 brains, 3 hearts: Some wild facts about octopuses

Things to know about the giant Pacific octopus, which is naturally found in the waters of the U.S. West coast, the Aleutian Islands and Japan

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

Collapsed floor traps worker at decommissioned North Island pulp mill

Man frees self, escapes injury, investigation underway at Elk Falls facility in Campbell River

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Most Read