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B.C. increase penalties on distracted driving

B.C. aims to eliminate distracted driving with higher fines, more penalty points, and earlier interventions for repeat offenders

VICTORIA - Significantly higher fines, more penalty points, and earlier interventions for repeat offenders - including driving prohibitions - will reinvigorate the Province’s push to eliminate distracted driving, a leading factor in deaths on B.C. roads.

The new financial penalties for distracted driving will be calculated using the base fine of $368 combined with escalating Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) driver penalty point premiums, which start at $175 for the first offence and climb for any additional offence within a 12-month period.

Effective June 1, 2016, distracted drivers are subject to the following:

* Each offence will include the base fine of $368 - up from $167 - and will add four penalty points to a person’s driving record.

* First-time offenders will face a minimum $543 in financial penalties.

* Repeat offenders, upon a second offence within 12 months, will pay the $368 fine plus $520, for a total of $888 in financial penalties, which escalate further for any additional offence.

Further stiffening these consequences, distracted driving is being elevated to the threshold for “high-risk” driving offences, making it equivalent to excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention. Repeat offenders will also have their driving record subject to automatic review, which could result in a three-to-12 month driving prohibition. Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers face intervention after a first distracted driving offence and a possible prohibition of up to six months. There will be longer prohibitions for repeat offences. The superintendent of motor vehicles also has discretion to prohibit drivers based on referrals from ICBC or police.

These tough new sanctions reflect what government heard during a public consultation in which 90% of respondents indicated they support stronger distracted driving penalties to help make roads safer.

An ongoing education and awareness campaign and partnerships, including those with law enforcement and ICBC, will also help encourage drivers to change the way they think about distracted driving, with the knowledge that it is high-risk behaviour with potentially fatal consequences.

In 2014, distracted and inattentive driving was a contributing factor in killing 66 people and seriously injuring 630 more on B.C. roads. All of these tragedies are preventable - drivers just need to put down their electronic devices and focus on driving.

Quick Facts:

* On June 1, 2016, the fine for distracted driving will increase from $167 to $368 and the number of penalty points per infraction will increase to four from three.

* ICBC Driver Penalty Point premiums start at $175 for the first four penalty points and escalate to a minimum $520 for a second offence.