B.C.’s attorney general has hinted that distracted drivers could possibly lose their privileges behind the wheel.
Speaking with Shane Woodford of Radio NL on Friday, David Eby was asked whether, in cracking down on distracted driving, the province might consider taking a page from impaired driving enforcement and implement immediate roadside prohibitions.
“Absolutely,” Eby said.
“We’re escalating the penalties and consequences of distracted driving to try and to try to get the message through to this hardcore group that just will not put their phones down.
“Because the same thing happened with seatbelts, and with drinking and driving, and whatever it’s going to take to get there.”
Global News requested an interview with Eby to clarify the remarks, but was told he was not available.
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The government provided a statement from Solicitor General Mike Farnworth in which he said that current penalties don’t seem to be deterring distracted drivers.
Between June 2016 and June 2017, police in B.C. issued 44,000 distracted driving tickets, down “just” 13 per cent from the same period in 2015/2016, Farnworth said.
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“For these reasons, we’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher,” he said.
“The changes we announced last fall mean that, starting March 1, 2018, distracted drivers with multiple distracted driving offences will face added and higher penalties, over and above their regular insurance premium.”
Farnworth did not address the potential for roadside prohibitions for distracted drivers.
Back in November, the province announced aggressive new penalties for distracted drivers, which include higher fines, ICBC premium hikes and escalating penalties for repeat offenders.
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Also on Friday, the province announced that a government-led independent review of ICBC had found a way to shave another $60 million from the public insurer’s deficit.
ICBC is expected to lose $1.3 billion this fiscal year.
According to the province, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report found that additional savings could be realized by optimizing vendor management, improving salvage and subrogation management and shifting to a proactive injury care model.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Kris Sims is applauding the savings, but says it’s disturbing that every time someone takes a magnifying glass to ICBC they find more money.
“It’s always concerning when a review manages to find $60 million dollars in the couch cushions,” she said.
Sims says she wants to see ICBC privatized as a co-op and removed from the government books.
Earlier in February, the BC NDP government announced it would introduce caps on pain and suffering for “minor injuries,” move the majority of claims out of the court system and put more money into medical care rather than cash payouts.
Those reforms are expected to save the insurer about $1 billion per year.
-With files from Michelle Morton