Vehicle crashes are up in B.C., costing ICBC more in claims. (Colleen Flanagan/Black Press)

B.C. defends distracted driving crackdown

Lawyer says penalties too harsh for texting at stoplights

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says tough new penalties for distracted driving are based on research that shows the high risk of talking or texting while driving.

Farnworth was responding to a Vancouver lawyer’s claim that distracted driving penalties are too high, after his review of coroner reports found that only 14 people in B.C. were determined to have died while using electronic devices behind the wheel between 2008 and 2016.

Farnworth noted that the problem goes far beyond deaths. Distracted driving is one of the main reasons given to explain the sudden jump in vehicle accident and injury claims that started in 2015 and has pushed up costs at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

“Research tells us that you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting at the wheel and three or four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone,” Farnworth said, citing a report from a U.S. university. “And police-reported Traffic Accident System data tell us that, over the last several years, distraction and inattention have injured 175 people – a dozen of them seriously – on average each week in B.C.”

Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko released a freedom of information request this week showing deaths confirmed by coroners.

“What we see is people who are punished with lengthy driving prohibitions as a result of picking up their cellphones at a set of traffic lights,” Doroshenko said.

RELATED: B.C. hikes distracted driving penalties

The public safety ministry reports that between June 2016 and June 2017, police in B.C. issued 44,000 distracted driving tickets, a reduction of 13 per cent from the previous year. The NDP government announced new measures in November that add up to a $2,000 penalty for getting two distracted driving tickets within three years.

“For these reasons, we’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher,” Farnworth said.

Just Posted

Valley Huskers sign Canada West all-star Marcel Arruda-Welch

The dynamic return man/defensive back is joining the B.C. Football Conference team in 2019.

Water use by the new brewery taken into account with long-range planning in Chilliwack

Concerns about impacts on Chilliwack’s aquifer led to reaching out to brewing company

Chilliwack’s Lisa Deputan qualifies for B.C. Senior Women’s Curling Championships

The Chilliwack Curling Club athlete leads her crew into provincials in Trail next month.

Agassiz man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Chilliwack Chief Harrison Blaisdell climbs Central Scouting Bureau rankings

The 17 year old forward is now drawing a second round grade as CSB releases its mid-term list.

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

South Surrey mother didn’t have the intent to kill her daughter: defence

Closing submissions in case of Lisa Batstone underway

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

VIDEO: 11-year-old violinist practices for Vancouver Symphony Orchestra debut

Cloverdale student Da-Wei Chan will perform Jan. 31, Feb. 28 with the VSO

Most Read