Police and ICBC are launching a month-long campaign to deter distracted driving, the third leading cause of fatal car crashes in the province after speed and impaired driving.
Driver distraction is blamed as a factor in 91 fatalities province-wide each year. Transportation ministry officials estimate drivers are four times likelier to crash when talking on a hand-held phone while driving and 23 times more likely to be in a crash if texting.
Enforcement by officers handing out $167 fines will be stepped up throughout September, according to police.
Officials kicked off the campaign Thursday using a simulator to show the effect of distractions on a driver.
“Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention,” ICBC interim president Mark Blucher said. “When you’re distracted behind the wheel your reaction time is significantly reduced. Distracted driving is a common cause of rear-end crashes and injuries – there is no safe following distance when your mind is not on the road.”
A 2012 survey for ICBC found B.C. motorists consider texting while driving to be just as risky as drinking and driving, yet 40 per cent of those who own cellphones admit they’ve used a hand-held phone while driving.
ICBC says its statistics count use of communications or video equipment among the sources of driver distraction, along with driver inattention and other sources of internal or external distraction.
ICBC injury payouts reached $1.9 billion in 2012, up $165 million from the previous year and a $400 million increase over five years. The Crown corporation cited that increase as the main reason for its application to raise premiums 4.9 per cent, effective Nov. 1.