Opinion: Distracted driving still a big issue

Campaign in March aimed at getting people to leave their phones alone

Texting and driving seems like it’s a habit many people are never going to break. (Photo by Boaz Joseph/The Leader)

Texting and driving seems like it’s a habit many people are never going to break. (Photo by Boaz Joseph/The Leader)

It’s hard to believe we’re still talking about this after so many years.

In an ICBC news release, details of a new Ipsos survey are revealed that show 38 per cent of respondents admit to using their phones at least once in every 10 trips. And that’s just the ones who admit it so you can imagine the number is a lot higher.

At the same time, the survey indicates 95 per cent believe texting while driving is risky, 88 per cent feel the same about talking on the phone and driving and even 80 per cent thought just looking at their hand-held phone while driving was not a good idea.

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So why do so many keep doing it? Part of the problem is the behaviour was not nipped in the bud during the early days when cellphones exploded onto the market.​ There should have been immediate laws enacted to realize the threats.

Eliminating the habit now seems about as likely as the complete obliteration of drink driving or driving while high since the legalization of cannabis.

More than 455,000 tickets have been issued to drivers for using an electronic device while driving since B.C.’s distracted driving law went into effect in January 2010. At least one in every four fatal crashes on B.C. roads involves distracted driving. That’s why police and ICBC continue to educate and enforce dangerous driving behaviour that claims 78 lives each year from 2015-2019 in the province.

Police across B.C. are ramping up distracted driving enforcement during March. Community volunteers are also setting up cell watch deployments to remind drivers to leave their phones alone.

“When you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for the care and control of that vehicle and the safety of all those around you – that means there is no time for distractions like your cellphone, even when stopped in traffic,” noted Supt. Holly Turton, vice-chair of the B.C. association of chiefs of police traffic safety committee.

The bottom line, however, remains stricter penalties are needed to change behaviours. Fines are one thing, but lengthy driving prohibitions might make drivers think twice about how they’re going to get around without their cars.

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