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EDITORIAL: Leave the phone alone

Distracted driving can have fatal consequences

The messages warning of the dangers of distracted driving are nothing new.

For years, British Columbia has had rules in place, penalizing drivers who are on their phones or texting while driving. Signs abound along the numerous highways throughout the province.

On March 9, police in the Lower Mainland held a one-day blitz targeting distracted drivers. Throughout the province, police will be cracking down on distracted driving throughout the month of March.

The financial penalties are significant. Those caught distracted driving will receive a fine of $368 and four driver penalty points on their driving record. Motorists with four or more points at the end of 12 months will pay a driver penalty point premium when they renew their car insurance.

The penalties apply for those driving, stopped at a red light, or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. While hands-free headsets and speaker phones are allowed for most, those with a Learner’s or Novice licence are not permitted to use any electronic devices, for any purpose, even in a hands-free mode.

The financial cost of distracted driving should be enough to prompt people to leave the phone alone. However, the toll on those affected is far more severe than any financial penalty.

According to RCMP statistics, each year on average, 77 people in British Columbia die in crashes where distracted driving is a contributing factor. That works out to more than one death every five days. For the families and friends, the loss is devastating.

This number does not include those injured in collisions where distracted driving was a factor. In fatal crashes, distracted driving was the second leading contributor, behind speed and ahead of impaired driving.

A one-day blitz, like the one in the Lower Mainland on March 9, can help to raise awareness of the penalties for distracted driving. At the same time, initiatives of this nature should not be necessary.

Distracted driving is a serious matter and can have some serious consequences.

Leave the phone alone when you’re driving. It’s the right thing to do.

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