Why is British Columbia cracking down on distracted driving?
- Distracted driving causes more fatalities than drunk driving and is the 2nd leading cause of death in motor vehicle accidents. Speeding takes the number 1 spot.
- More than 50 000 distracted driving tickets were issued in 2013.
The British Columbia Hands Free Driving Legislation is often misunderstood.
It isn’t good enough to use a hands free device like a bluetooth headset or visor mount.
Even if you have integrated bluetooth in your car you still aren’t necessarily in compliance with the law.
In order to be compliant with the law you will need to meet other conditions.
If you phone is loose in your vehicle you are not permitted to touch it. You can answer your phone with a single touch to your bluetooth headset or a single touch to a visor mount hands free device. But if you touch your phone without it being properly affixed to the dashboard or windshield (without obstructing your view) of the vehicle then you are breaking the law.
Also, if you are using a headset you must have it on your ear prior to starting to drive. If you receive a call and you are not already wearing your headset it is illegal to put the headset on while driving.
Text messages may only be sent using voice activated technology. You may set up your phone to read you text messages and you may dictate text messages to your phone.
Using an electronic device while stopped at a red light is still an offence.
So as you can see there is more to hands free driving laws in BC than buying yourself a bluetooth headset.
Make sure you are covered because the penalty in BC is steep. As of Oct 20, 2014 the Provincial Government amended the Motor Vehicle Act regulations to add a penalty of 3 points against a driver in addition to the $167 fine. Previously the points and the fine only applied to drivers caught texting while on the road.
The penalty covers watching movies, programming a phone’s GPS and operating hand held musiic players like iPods and other mp3 players. Basically any handheld electronic device can land you $167 fine and 3 points against your license.
And the points can get expensive really fast. Points remain on your driving record for five years and can result in further penalties as they accumulate. If you have too many points you can lose your license.
If you have more than three points you will have to pay a penalty of $175 on your insurance premiums. Six points will get you a $300 premium and of course the fines are on top of the point premiums.
Link to the legislation:
Under the definition of using an electronic device, there is a complete ban on a driver:
- Holding, operating, communicating or watching the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device
- Sending or receiving text messages or email on any type of electronic device.
- Holding, operating, communicating or watching the screen of a hand-held electronic computing device, one of the purposes of which is to process or compute data.
- As well, B.C.’s distracted driving legislation prohibits drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) from using hands-free devices.
So the bottom line is don’t ignore the safe driving legislation in British Columbia. It could hurt your pocket book and it could hurt you or someone else if you get in an accident as a result of distracted driving.