Drivesmart column: Distracted driving laws in B.C.

I’ve investigated a fatal collision where a driver was adjusting his CD music

By Tim Schewe

@KostelecPlan asked a couple of good questions on Twitter this week. He wanted to know what the distracted driving laws in B.C. are and would I share my thoughts on media outlets using video footage submitted by distracted drivers in their news stories.

The video he shared with his questions showed the view out the drivers window of a moving vehicle showing a bear walking along the top of the concrete barrier at the side of the highway in Radium.

Distracted means having one’s thoughts or attention drawn away or unable to concentrate or give attention to something. In relation to driving, it is anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of operating their vehicle properly. This could include talking, eating, shaving, applying makeup or operating vehicle controls.

Many people find nothing wrong with performing some or all of these tasks while driving. They’ve done it again and again and nothing bad has ever happened. In a sense, it’s become their default setting and they no longer consider it out of the norm.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve investigated a fatal collision where a driver who was adjusting his CD music drifted to the right and struck a vehicle parked at the side of the highway. The driver of the parked vehicle was killed.

When I started policing, the response to distracted driving came after the distraction had caused the driver to do something wrong. Violation tickets would be issued for failing to keep right, running a red light or speeding, basic errors caused by inattention.

If a collision was caused by distraction, there was driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway to consider. When I started policing, these offences under section 144 MVA meant a mandatory court appearance but today they may be dealt with by traffic ticket as well.

Our provincial government has reacted to the proliferation of electronic devices in our vehicles that have proven to be distracting by creating laws that deal with them proactively. A driver no longer has to make an error in order to be charged, simply using an electronic device while driving is now an offence.

I don’t have a strong view one way or the other about media sharing video such as this one as long as they have not paid the creator to use it. The media shares other things more offensive to me on a daily basis. As long as we realize the act shown is unacceptable and don’t get the idea that it would be a good idea to do it ourselves, that’s enough.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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