Attorney General says they will “fix” low distracted driving penalties
WATCH: A North Vancouver couple whose lives were forever changed by a distracted driver is speaking exclusively to Global News about their loss and the need for tougher penalties. Kristen Robinson reports.
An expectant couple lost their baby after a crash caused by a distracted driver on the Lions Gate Bridge.
The government says their story was one of many they’ve received which is leading to a likely increase in the $173 distracted driving fine.
Virtually every day, Paula Pepin and Etienne Morin cross the Lions Gate Bridge on their way to work.
But when they did so on December 3, 2013, their life changed in an instant.
“You have flashbacks all times of the day,” says Pepin.
As the two drove southbound on the bridge, a sedan on the other side suddenly crossed into their lane, smashing into their SUV head-on.
Morin suffered broken bones, but the two were otherwise fine, with police saying the fact they were in an SUV saved them from death.
Their unborn child, however, was another story.
“It was a roller-coaster for the next few weeks. We were told we lost the pregnancy, and then told it was fine, and then again we lost it,” says Pepin.
“We officially lost it late December.”
Police determined that the accident was partly caused by the other driver using an electronic device while driving. He was fined $535.
The distracted driving portion was just $167, the second lowest penalty in the country.
The two recovered from their loss and recently had a second child. They’re now advocates for raising awareness about distracted driving.
“Often people think ‘I’ll just take my phone for a second.’ But that one second will bring you in the other lane and hit that car,” says Pepin.
Distracted driving is now the second leading cause of car crash deaths in B.C., with 88 people killed each year on average.
Ontario recently passed legislation to change the maximum fine to $1,000. And in Nova Scotia, fines were increased from $176 to $234 for a first offence, and from $350 to $579 for any subsequent offences this February.
It now seems the government, following a month of public consultation, may move forward with increases as well.
“A story like this is heartbreaking – I can’t imagine Paula and Etienne’s profound sense of loss,” said Attorney General Suzanne Anton in a statement.
The government received over 7,000 responses to their questionnaire on distracted driving, with 90 per cent saying the fine should increase.
“Distracted driving must be stopped so other families don’t have to endure such preventable tragedy. We know our penalties are too low –thousands of British Columbians stated as much during our month-long consultation – and our government is going to fix this.”
It would bring some comfort to Pepin and Morin.
“167 dollars for almost ending somebody’s life. It’s never going to change somebody’s behaviour,” says Morin.