By Dean Midyette
On June 1st, the province will be increasing fines for distracted driving with the hope that it curbs rampant cell phone use while operating a vehicle. Currently, distracted driving is the second highest cause of vehicle related fatalities in British Columbia, trailing only impaired driving (see story on page 5) and the number one contributor of vehicle collisions across Canada, with eight out of 10 resulting from this selfish behaviour.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you are 23 times more likely to crash while driving distracted.
The B.C. Liberal government deserves kudos for increasing the fines and demerit points associated with distracted driving. They also deserve credit for an escalating series of penalties for repeat offenders that are a part of the legislation.
In Ontario, the first offence comes with a fine of $490 and three demerits, which could be increased to $1,000 by a judge if the case goes to court and the driver is found guilty. Drivers without a full licence will receive a 30-day suspension for their first conviction. In Prince Edward Island, fines begin at $500 with five demerit points.
I, for one, dont think the penalties go far enough.
Lets take the deterrent one step further by adopting the Skandinavian model where, in addition to a base fine for a driving infraction, there is also a day fine or fine unit based on ones personal income added to the cost of a ticket. For example, in Finland, the day fine is one half of one days disposable income. Lying about your income also comes with an additional fine and up to three months in prison. The day fine is only applied in more extreme circumstances, such as speeding 20 km/h over the posted limit.
Two famous Finnish cases involving wealthy individuals resulted in a 26,000 fine ($38,000 CDN) for driving through a red light and a 112,000 ($163,000 CDN) fine for speeding 22 km/hr over the posted limit. In Switzerland, where penalties are a percentage of overall wealth, a diplomat from the Republic of Guinea-Bissau was caught driving a Ferrari Testarossa at 137 km/h through a village and fined $290,000 US ($360,000 CDN).
Now thats a deterrent!