Government hints at stiffer penalties for distracted driving

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B.C. government hints at bigger penalties for distracted driving
WATCH: The British Columbia government is hinting at stiffer penalties for distracted driving, but not everyone thinks larger fines are the way to go. Linda Aylesworth explains why – Feb 12, 2016

B.C.’s Justice Minister says a provincial survey shows the vast majority of people in this province want to see the fines increased for distracted driving.

Getting caught in Prince Edward Island costs as much as $1,200, and in Ontario it’s $1,000 – but in B.C. the fine is only $167, the second lowest in the country.

That, despite the fact that distracted driving is responsible for 80 deaths in B.C. every year.

“We are having a look at it in government and there may be some changes in the penalties, because we need people to get off their devices. When you are driving, you have to concentrate on the task at hand and that is driving,” said Justice Minister Suzanne Anton.

“There will likely be changes to the penalty structure, but those remained to be seen and announced…stay tuned.”

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READ MORE: Anton said last year they would “fix” low distracted driving penalties

But the Trial Lawyers Association feels that fines alone are not the answer.

“I don’t think you’re going to legislate changes in conduct. I think you’re going to educate changes in conduct,” said Bill MacLeod.

He’s one of many lawyers in B.C. who volunteer their time at high schools through the End Distracted Driving program, spreading the word about distracted driving.

“We are the people who injured people come to for justice after being hit. The way I look at it distracted driving is the new drunk driving,” he said.

“With any luck at all we can get people, especially when they’re starting to drive, thinking about it as they think about drunk driver. Because everyone knows drunk driving is no longer socially acceptable.”

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