Opinion: Are the new distracted driving penalties tough enough now?

Education and continued public pressure will also be key components in making sure our roadways are safer for all of us.

New distracted driving scopes allow police to spot offenders 1.2 kilometres away.

New distracted driving scopes allow police to spot offenders 1.2 kilometres away.

Penalties for distracted driving just got tougher in Chilliwack.

But will they be tough enough to make a difference.

Rarely does a day goes by where a motorist can’t be seen with a phone pressed to his ear, or driver with her head bowed texting.

If the fact that distracted driving costs the lives of more than 80 people a year in B.C. isn’t enough to deter them, will tougher fines?

Distracted driving is currently the second-leading cause of death in motor vehicles accidents in this province – second behind speeding, and ahead of impaired driving.

Fatalities aside, many more people face life-altering injuries or years of recovery, simply because someone could not leave their phone alone.

Until recently, B.C. had some of the mildest regulations in the country.

But that changed on Wednesday.

Effective June 1, distracted driving offences will result in a $368 fine, and when the $175 penalty points premium by ICBC is added on for the four-penalty-point infraction, that means a minimum $543 fine for first-time offenders.

A second offence within a 12-month period drives the cost up to $888.

The tough new measures – now the second harshest in Canada – should surprise no one.

Police and politicians have made clear that years of warnings have not been enough to curb this thoughtless and dangerous behaviour.

Just three weeks ago a Victoria Day weekend blitz by the BC RCMP Integrated Road Safety Units netted 264 violations for distracted driving, driving without due care and attention and driving without reasonable consideration.

That’s 65 violations more than the year previous.

It’s hoped stiffer fines will change that.

But they won’t do it alone. Education and continued public pressure will also be key components in making sure our roadways are safer for all of us.

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