Distracted driving is known to cause crashes (BPD photo)

Motorists face significant fines for handheld device use

Roughly one-quarter of vehicle collisions in British Columbia are attributed to distracted driving

Members of the Summerland RCMP are reminding motorists to put down their phones or electronic devices or risk hefty fines.

“Unfortunately, we see it more than we’d like to,” said Sgt. Dave Preston of the Summerland RCMP detachment. “We always notice it.”

He said roughly one-quarter of vehicle collisions in British Columbia are attributed to distracted driving, and research shows telephone conversations are much more distracting than in-vehicle conversations.

“Any activity that prevents a driver’s ability to focus on the road – distractions from both inside and outside of the vehicle – can impact a driver’s full observation of the road,” Preston said, “and the Motor Vehicle Act forbids drivers from using smartphones and other electronic devices while driving. However, they can use the hands-free mode on their phone so long as it is mounted on a holder or dock.”

READ ALSO: What exactly counts as distracted driving in B.C.?

READ ALSO: $578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

New drivers with the N designation are not permitted to use electronic devices while driving — even in hands-free mode.

This includes holding the device, operating its functions, communicating through it or watching the screen.

The penalties are significant.

Drivers caught emailing, texting, or using an electronic device while driving face a first-time offence fine of $368 and four points ($210) in their ICBC penalty point premium. That’s a total of $578 in fines.

Even if a smartphone is mounted, a motorist can get a ticket just for touching the device to change the song.

Serious or repeated convictions for distracted driving will result in increased premiums after the first conviction.

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