Distractions While Driving - Cell Phones and Other Devices

Overview

Activities that impact a driver’s ability to focus on the road come in a wide range of forms, from visual distractions inside and outside the vehicle, to cognitive distractions when using electronic devices. In fact, research indicates that drivers fail to process approximately 50 per cent of the visual information in their driving environment when they are using electronic communication devices.

While texting on a communications device is often recognized as the riskiest behaviour, distractions such as seeking for preferred music or attending to personal grooming can significantly divert a driver’s attention. Research has also concluded that telephone conversations are much more distracting than in-vehicle conversations – perhaps because passengers can observe the road, provide warning, adjust conversation tone according to traffic conditions, and the like – while telephone conversations contain fewer pauses and demand greater cognitive resources.

Research evidence has shown that approximately one-quarter of crashes can be attributed to driver distraction: attention being diverted from driving tasks. This can result in significant costs to society, such as: tragic loss of life, serious injuries, health expenses, property damage and insurance rates.

Rules and Penalties

The Motor Vehicle Act, Part 3.1 — Use of Electronic Devices While Driving specifically addresses the use of electronic devices while driving.

The fine for a single distracted driving violation ticket is $368, along with 4 penalty points that will be applied a driver’s record. On a first infraction, these points will also result in a driver paying a further $175 ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium, for a total of $543 for a first infraction.

Drivers who get two or more distracted driving convictions in a three-year period are charged a Driver Risk Premium (DRP), which is billed annually and is separate from any insurance premiums you may have. This amount will increase for each additional conviction.

For example, drivers with two or more convictions for the use of electronics devices while driving over a three-year period could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties - an increase of $740 - in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.

Find out more about how much this change will cost repeat offenders.

Distracted driving is also a high risk driving infraction that triggers early intervention and driving prohibitions through the Driver Improvement Program (DIP). Experienced drivers who incur two or more infractions within 12 months will be considered high risk and their driving records will be reviewed by DIP, potentially resulting in a 3-12 month prohibition. 

Stricter limitations are imposed on drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) as risks are demonstrated to be higher among new and young drivers due to a combination of inexperience, a tendency toward greater risk-taking, and significantly higher than average use of electronic devices – all combined, makes this group of drivers particularly vulnerable. GLP drivers who incur one distracted driving infraction will also be considered high-risk, and will be reviewed by DIP, potentially receiving a 1-6 month prohibition.  They may also be subject to longer prohibitions for subsequent infractions.

For GLP drivers, violation tickets can be issued for any electronic distraction, including hands-free devices, and always comes with 4 penalty points. As well, the driving record of any GLP driver with 3 points or more – from distracted driving or other offences – will automatically undergo a review by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles – see the Driver Improvement Program page for more information. If the Superintendent issues a driving prohibition to a driver in the Novice stage, the 24-month Novice driving period starts over when the prohibition ends and the novice driver gets re-licensed.

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