Are the New Distracted Driving Laws in BC Strict Enough?

Whether you’ve been immediately affected by distracted driving or are just a casual observer of the growing phenomenon, almost everyone would agree that they would like the other drivers on the road to be more attentive, and while the new legislation promises increased penalties for certain types of distracted driving, many wonder if the laws are strict enough, especially considering that many times, what is at stake is life or death.

The first wave of changes increased the penalty for operating handheld devices while driving. Any use of a handheld electronic device is subject to a traffic violation ticket, and any texting or message writing carries additional penalty points, which count against your driving record and could result in a suspension or removal of your driver’s license. For many, driving is an essential part of their life, and to lose the ability to do so might provide problems with work and other responsibilities.

For probationary drivers, the consequences grow. For example, drivers who are in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) receive three penalty points for any electronic distractions, including hands free devices. Any GLP driver with 3 points is subject to review, which means they could end up being put on prohibition for driving. Furthermore, these points, if accumulated, can come with a penalty point premium, which can vary anywhere from 175 to 24,000 dollars. These premiums are separate from your insurance premiums and must be paid regardless of whether or not you own or insure a vehicle.

These penalties are certainly more strict that in many places throughout the country, but as more and more technology is developed, it becomes harder and harder to prevent distracted driving. Many people, while they agree that they don’t want others to be distracted while driving, are guilty of driving distracted themselves. Many of these people feel like they are in control in a way that other people are not, or that what they are doing is more important, or that it is a one-time thing.

While there is certainly room for harsher punishments, British Columbia is taking steps to deter drivers from driving distracted. By setting up these penalties, the consequences become more tangible for people who are tempted to use electronic devices while operating a vehicle, especially for young, new drivers, for whom electronic devices have become a constant. These laws, especially for GLP’s, serve as a harsh reminder that driving is a privilege, and while there are certainly harsher consequences than losing your license, such an injury or death, for many, that concrete punishment is a reminder of the risks of driving distracted. These laws will hopefully make people think twice before driving distracted, and they may also serve as a reminder to pay special attention when driving, because even a moment’s distraction can be the difference between living and dying.

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