The BC government yesterday announced what I guess it thinks is a staggering increase in penalties for distracted driving.
The government said it plans to “work to designate distracted driving as a high-risk driving behaviour under the ICBC Driver Risk Premium program.”
What that means, it explained, is a driver with two distracted driving tickets in a three-year period will pay as much as $2,000 in fines and premiums ― an increase of $740 over the existing penalties.
The measure is akin to replacing a stiff slap to the face with an even stiffer slap, hoping that might get someone’s attention.
What the government needs to be delivering is a knockout punch.
We all know distracted driving is a problem. Studies indicate the practice — using handheld devices while driving — is a factor in more than one-quarter of all car crash fatalities in B.C.
Almost 80 people are killed every year in BC because of it.
Still, there are reportedly about 12,000 drivers in British Columbia who have multiple distracted-driving offences over a three-year period.
I have to ask — why are these people still on the road?
In a bit of jest, but with serious intention, let me suggest an alternative.
The first time a driver is nabbed for distracted driving, drop a ticket in their lap and then give them a timeout.
Take their keys, take their smartphone and make them put their heads down on the steering wheel and just sit there for an hour or two — or four.
Give them time to think about the danger they are to themselves and others.
Then put them back on the road with a commitment to attend a “training session,” where they can learn firsthand the horrors of “car crash fatalities.”
They can reclaim the smartphone with their diploma.
If that’s not enough of a slap to the face, and a driver is pulled over a second time with a smartphone in his or her hand, deliver the knockout punch.
Take the vehicle away.
Impound it and let them walk down the road — with their smartphone, of course — until they can arrange a ride from a more responsible driver.
Two strikes should be sufficient for a loss of license, temporary or otherwise.
To be fair, drivers with multiple distracted violations in any one year are currently subject to automatic review, which could result in a three-to-12-month driving prohibition. And Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers face intervention after a first distracted driving offence and a possible prohibition of up to six months.
But why would the government consider making it more expensive for a high-risk driver to drive rather than just removing him or her from the road?
The simple answer is because the latter solution doesn’t boost the revenue component. In fact, it would reduce it.
As a release explains, “when fully implemented, the changes will result in about $3 million to $5 million in additional premiums collected annually. My emphasis.
The government suggests the $3 million to $5 million it will generate in additional premiums will be used to “offset ICBC’s overall basic insurance rate pressures, benefiting drivers around the province.”
Turn this around and remove those 12,000 distracted drivers from the highway and ICBC stands to lose a minimum of $24 million in annual premiums.
Question answered — although I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself the value in the solution.