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Tougher distracted driving penalties to go into effect this month

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — ICBC says tougher penalties for distracted drivers take effect this month, while the insurance corporation will be introducing a pilot program involving new technologies to help crack down on the high-risk driving behaviour.

Enhanced police enforcement on distracted driving will also take place across B.C., including a province-wide blitz today. Starting March 1st, ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium program will include convictions for distracted drivers who continue to put road users at risk by using electronic devices while driving. As previously announced, drivers with two convictions for the use of electronic devices while driving over a three year period will now face added and higher premiums. They could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties – an increase of $740 over the previous penalties –in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.

“Distracted driving endangers the lives of British Columbians with devastating effects for families and communities,” said Attorney General David Eby. “It also puts significant pressure on insurance rates. Improving road safety is key to creating a sustainable auto insurance system with more affordable rates for B.C. families. We must see cultural shift that sees distracted drivers put down their cell phones and drive.”

Two pilot projects exploring how technology can help combat distracted driving in our province are also underway, as announced in the fall. ICBC is working with 139 volunteer drivers from across the province on a three-month pilot. Drivers will share feedback about their experiences with a small telematics device installed in their vehicle which blocks the use of their handheld phone when the participant is driving.

“Distracted driving is a preventable behaviour that has caused too many people and their families to suffer,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “We’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher. The changes to the Driver Risk Premium program mean distracted drivers with multiple distracted driving offences will now face added and higher penalties, over and above their regular vehicle insurance premium.”

On average, distracted driving claims 78 lives across the province every year. 13 people are killed in distracted driving crashes in the North Central region.

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