B.C. cracking down on distracted driving with hefty penalties

A second distracted driving ticket will free drivers of nearly $2,000.
A second distracted driving ticket will free drivers of nearly $2,000.

Our westernmost province, known for its mild weather, and the luxury of having both mountains and beach within an hour’s journey of each another, is developing another reputation: a province filled with dangerous, behind-the-wheel multitaskers.

It took only a couple decades for cellphones to transform from telephones to handheld devices capable of unlimited entertainment with a variety of communication methods. With that evolution, a wave of dangerous distracted driving has hit the west coast.

12,000 British Columbians have multiple distracted driving offences, according to the CBC. So, the province is beefing up penalties. Before the new changes, a distracted driving ticket cost $368 plus a Drive Risk Premium, to be paid to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. The second offence in the same year would cost the driver $1,256.

But now, that second distracted driving ticket will free the driver of nearly $2,000.

Artificial intelligence is soon to introduce driverless cars to the market. According to the stats, it looks as if many Canadian drivers are anticipating the innovation by treating their regular car as if it drives itself.

Whether it’s listening to podcasts, texting friends, scanning Instagram, or adjusting iTunes, a quick glance here or there can seem like a harmless, momentary lapse of concentration.

But the ICBC tells us it’s a fatally important issue. Distracted driving kills 78 people a year in BC. Twenty-seven percent of all car accident fatalities in BC are thanks to distracted driving and 80 percent of Canadian automobile collisions have driver inattention as a contributing factor, according to CAA.

Some British Columbians feel like the new harsh punishments are simply a cash grab by the government. Mike Smyth writes in The Province that according to records released under BC freedom of information laws, only 1,000 of the 52,000 distracted driving tickets doled out in 2013 were for texting or emailing. Drivers can be ticketed for just touching their phones, even if their car is parked at the side of the road.

The 12,000 British Columbians who have multiple distracted driving tickets are going to provide the ICBC with between 3 and $5 million in additional premiums, according to the CBC.

But whether the ICBC is motivated by a windfall of ticket revenue is irrelevant. Technology has allowed us to straddle two worlds: present reality and the limitless space of the internet. Our attention to the immediate environment is constantly pulled towards the seemingly infinite capabilities of those windows in our pockets.

A consequence of these advantages is we have lost a portion of the present moment. We are not here and now in the way, we used to be. Those in our presence compete for our attention with our pocketed access to anything the world has to offer.

B.C. has distracted drivers in the crosshairs because of a sharp rise in car accidents in the province. The CBC reported that there are 875 crashes a day on average, with 320,000 last year. That’s a 23 percent in just three years.
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