Keep your eyes on the road – The law, texting, and you

Technology has done wonders for motor vehicle travel and safety. Advances in motor vehicle safety include: rear-view cameras, blind spot alerts, park assist and even systems that alert the driver when the vehicle is drifting from its lane. Travel has become more enjoyable and easier as well with GPS systems that make the need for maps obsolete, Bluetooth, DVD players, and satellite radio. It is remarkable to witness how far technology has evolved in such a short time and the impact it has had on motor vehicle travel in British Columbia.

Though technological advances have in many ways made driving safer and more comfortable, there are drawbacks as well. As we have become more and more dependent on technology and smartphones in particular, we have also become more distracted by it. The consequences that occur when driving while distracted are serious and in many cases fatal. This blog post is meant to educate readers about the dangers of distracted driving and the law in British Columbia regarding the use of electronic devices while driving.

Distracted Driving by the Numbers

In British Columbia from 2011 to 2015, approximately one quarter of all driving fatalities (roughly 78 each year) were due to distracted driving. Distracted driving is the second-leading cause of motor vehicle fatalities in BC, behind speeding but ahead of impaired driving. As a society we have come to abhor impaired driving and we take it upon ourselves to stop our friends and family from driving while intoxicated. We do not do enough to stop ourselves from checking our phones while we drive. Did you know that five seconds is the average time that a driver takes his eyes off the road while texting? Those five seconds are enough to cause devastating car crashes and injuries or death not only to the distracted driver, but to other innocent road users as well.

The Campaign to Curb Distracted Driving

In response to the crisis that driving while distracted has created, the BC government banned the use of personal electronic devices while driving in 2010. This means BC drivers are no longer permitted to talk on handheld devices while driving and are not allowed to send text messages.

Next time you are tempted to check your email, send a quick message, or make a quick call while you are on the road, think twice and remember these rules:

  • It is against the law for drivers to hold, operate, communicate, or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device.
  • It is against the law for drivers to send or read text messages or emails on any type of electronic device.
  • It is against the law for drivers to hold, operate, communicate, or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic computing device.
  • Drivers are allowed to use these devices only if safely parked off the road or making an emergency 911 call.
  • Manual dialing is prohibited and is treated as texting.
  • New drivers, Class 7 and 7L Learners (aka N or L) are prohibited from using any electronic device while driving, including GPS, hands-free units, and devices, which are permitted for fully licensed drivers.

What About “Hands Free”?

A fully licensed driver may use an electronic device with a hands-free function if:

  • The device is not held or operated by the hand;
  • It is voice activated or requires only one touch in order to initiate, accept, or end a call;
  • If it includes an earpiece, it can be worn in one ear and put in the ear prior to driving;
  • The device is securely fixed to the vehicle or worn on the person’s body; and
  • The device is installed in such a way that it doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view.

New Tougher Penalties for Distracted Driving

Last summer (June 2016), the government introduced tougher penalties to deter people from driving while distracted. Now, drivers who breach the rules will be fined $368, a $200 increase from the previous penalty of $167. They will also get 4 penalty points for the infractions. Driving infractions, which carry penalty points, can lead to a driving prohibition and for novice drivers will mean their novice period restarts from the beginning when the prohibition is over.

Different Rules for Different Electronic Devices – Get Informed

The government has very detailed rules pertaining to different the use of types of electronic devices, which can be found here.

How You Can Help Prevent Distracted Driving

For more information about distracted driving and what you can do to promote prevention of it, see Distracted Driving Kills.

 

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