Greater penalties needed to curb distracted driving

Stronger penalties for distracted driving violations would be welcomed and appropriate.

Which is more deadly – the bottle or the cell phone?

It’s remarkable that distracted driving is now causing more tragedies, on our roads than drinking and driving.

Eighty-one people were killed in British Columbia by distracted driving, compared with 55 by impaired driving, in 2012. And 51,000 distracted driving tickets were handed out in 2011.

Of course, there have been huge public education campaigns conducted over the years, designed to change society’s view of mixing alcohol and autos, not to mention that B.C. has some of the country’s toughest drinking and driving legislation. This has created a significant reduction in drinking-and driving-related deaths in  the province since it was implemented.

It appears the equivalent needs to be applied to those who insist on talking on their cell phones or texting while driving. Somehow it is seen as acceptable to stay connected to a mobile device even when piloting thousands of pounds of metal on roads populated with other drivers and their passengers, as well as cyclists and pedestrians.

It is not acceptable.

It is stupid and dangerous.

Just like there are options for people who wish to drink to find alternate transportation, there are hands-free options for those who simply can not miss a call.

The other alternative is to simply put the phone away while driving, or pull over to a safe place if you need to reply.

Currently, B.C. residents can be fined $167, plus three demerit points, for talking on a hand-held mobile device while driving.

News that Attorney General Suzanne Anton is now considering stronger penalties for distracted driving violations is welcome and appropriate. We look forward to the day when the stigma about cell phones and driving equals that to those who combine booze and cars.