Drivesmart column: Spring 2020 distracted driving campaign

Distracted driving is responsible for 26 per cent of collision fatalities in B.C. each year.

By Tim Schewe

#EyesFwdBC! It’s distracted driving campaign time. ICBC tells us that distracted driving is responsible for 26 per cent of collision fatalities in B.C. each year. On average, 76 people die each year in a crash where distracted driving is a contributing factor.

Every year, on average, according to police reported data from 2014 to 2018:

• 26 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland

• nine people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island

• 29 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior

• 12 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region

Let’s not forget that distracted driving is not something that is always connected with the use of an electronic device by the driver either. There are many other sources of distraction that take a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Anything that takes your hands off the wheel or your mind off of the task can be distracting as well.

The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) have a stake in this as well. Chief Constable Neil Dubord is the chair of the BCACP Traffic Safety Committee and he contributes the following advice:

“Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue in our province — it’s the number one cause of crashes. Police officers see distracted drivers on the roads in every community. We are stepping up efforts making sure people leave their phones alone while driving.”

To round out the message, remember that your first ticket for improper use of an electronic device while driving will cost you a $368 fine and $252 for the four penalty points. Do it again within one year (about 1,335 of us do) and you are looking at a bill for just over $2,500.

I often wonder whether these campaigns get through to the people that they are aimed at. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation they do make a difference:

• reduced the number of road incidents by approximately nine per cent

• increased seatbelt use by 25 per cent

• reduced speeding by 16 per cent

• increased yielding behaviour by 37 per cent

• increased risk comprehension by about 16 per cent

However, they must be coupled with legislation, enforcement and education, which our government and ICBC tries to do.

There is also some indication that local, personally directed campaigns show by far the biggest effect on road accidents. So, thank you for reading this. Hopefully you take something away from doing so that results in the reduction of your crash risk.

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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