Column: Leave your phone alone

Distracted driving, like drinking and driving, is completely avoidable, yet too often has terrible consequences.

Distracted driving, like drinking and driving, is completely avoidable, yet too often has terrible consequences.

On June 1, new regulations, fines and penalties on distracted driving come into effect. These strengthened laws are in large part due to the talks our government held with the public last year.

Driving is a privilege. Each offence will include a base fine of $368 — up from $167 — and will add four penalty points to a person’s driving record. First-time offenders will pay a minimum fine of $543 — the $368 base fine, plus ICBC’s escalating Driver Penalty Point premium of $175 for the first offence.

Those who offend twice within one year will pay the $368 base fine plus ICBC’s escalating DPP premium of $520 for a total of $888, which will continue to increase for any additional offence. Repeat offenders will also have their driving record reviewed automatically, and could result in a driving ban of three to 12 months.

These tougher penalties for distracted driving are an important step in reducing the number of crashes caused by drivers who were using their cellphones.

Distracted driving is one of the major contributing factors in automobile deaths in B.C. In 2014 alone, 66 people were killed and 630 were seriously injured in crashes caused by distracted driving and inattention. What’s more, each of these deaths and injuries was 100 per cent preventable. By adopting tough new penalties for distracted driving, we want to see our drivers, cyclists and pedestrians get home to their families safely as we take another step toward reaching our goal of having the safest roads in North America by 2020.

When you are driving, leave your phone alone.

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Two major events are happening in Williams Lake in the coming days. The Cariboo Shrine Club #26 is hosting more than 300 Shriners from across B.C. for the club’s annual spring ceremonial May 26-28. Please make our visitors feel welcome! This is followed by the Lakers Car Club’s 22nd annual Spring Round-Up Show and Shine May 28 and 29. Get out and see these beautiful classic cars!

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.