British Columbia to increase penalties next year for distracted drivers

VICTORIA _ Distracted drivers are facing higher penalties in British Columbia.

The provincial government says it wants to designate distracted driving as a high-risk behaviour under the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s driver risk premium program.

That means a driver with two tickets for distracted driving over a three-year period will see their total financial penalties rise to as much as $2,000, an increase of $740 over existing penalties.

The changes will take effect March 1.

The government says the charges are separate from vehicle insurance premiums charged by ICBC and will be levied even if an individual does not own or insure a vehicle.

It says distracted driving is a factor in more than 25 per cent of car crashes fatalities in B.C. and kills an average of 78 people annually.

Attorney General David Eby says in a statement the changes will treat distracted driving as a serious high-risk behaviour.


Saskatchewan raises penalties for drunk drivers with children in their vehicle

By Jennifer Graham


REGINA _ The Saskatchewan government wants tougher penalties for people who drive drunk with children in their vehicle.

Proposed legislation has been introduced that would mean an immediate seven-day driving suspension on a first offence for someone driving with a blood-alcohol content of .04 or higher and with a child in the vehicle.

It would also apply if someone refuses to a field sobriety test or fails a field sobriety test.

The current roadside suspension is three days.

Repeat offenders would face a 30-day suspension, up from 21 days, for a second offence, while a third offence triggers a 120-day suspension, up from the current 90.

Impaired drivers who transport children will also have their vehicles seized for longer periods; first-time offenders will have their vehicles taken for seven days, up from the current three days and the time increases to 30 days for a second offence, up from seven days, and to 60 days for a third offence, up from 14 days.

“We think it’s going to drive a firmer message home,” Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.

Hargrave said the move was already being considered when a tweet from a Regina police officer shocked people last month.

Const. Curtis Warnar with the traffic unit tweeted Sept. 27 that he pulled over an impaired driver who had a blood-alcohol content of four times the legal limit while driving kids to school that morning.

“Few calls over my 9 years of policing in Regina truly stick with bother me. Today was one of those days,” wrote Warnar.

“I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. I fear that people won’t get the message until it hits too close to home, but by then it’s too late.

Hargrave says that was an extreme case.

“But what could have happened to those kids, the thought just scares me,” said the minister.

Michelle Okere with MADD Canada says it’s important to have deterrents in place.

“We’re definitely supportive of strengthening laws around child endangerment, obviously understanding that much of the time, children under 16 really aren’t given a choice in the matter,” she said.

“We are hopeful this will be a deterrent for adults who are doing that.”


Do drivers with dashcams deserve discounts?

SUSAN LAZARUK | Vancouver Sun

Alex Jang, owner of BlackboxMyCar in Richmond, said he’s had clients use dashcam footage to help government adjusters sort out who’s responsible, thereby speeding up claim settlements and saving ICBC money. He said ICBC should reward drivers with a discount of 10 to 15 per cent if they install a dashcam, as he said some insurance companies in the U.K., South Korea and Thailand already do.

“It gets rid of all the ‘he said, she said,’ ” said Jang.

Dashcam footage can also be used to prove fraud, he said. In 2012, an Ontario driver was charged with defrauding his insurer after the driver he hit recorded the offending driver backing up to him on Highway 401.

And Jang said a dashcam can save drivers money if the model can be left on when the car is unoccupied, like when his car was damaged in a hit-and-run “and I was able to capture the licence number and I didn’t have to pay a penny.”

Dashcams could help in a hit-and-run, but there is no evidence that installing one will make you a better driver or lower your odds of getting into a crash, said ICBC spokeswoman Joanna Linsangan. Having video footage of a crash can be included in a driver’s case along with statements of the drivers, witnesses and police, as well as photos to determine liability, she said.

But because the footage shows only one perspective, “it only tells part of the story,” she said.

As for assessing blame in a hit-and-run, “We would welcome the footage, as it will help us with our investigation,” she said.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said dashcam footage isn’t going to improve a driver’s performance, and incriminating footage could be erased by the offending driver or one planning fraud.

He said, instead, ICBC is going to pilot “telematics” technology that records the car’s speed, how it turns and brakes, and other safe-driving data that ICBC can download to use to determine a driver’s risk. Rate reductions also can be based on that data, he said.

“The technologies we’re looking at currently are trying to change driver behaviour,” said Eby. “Research shows people drive better when they have it (telematics) in their car and have voluntarily taken it on, because they know it affects their rates if they drive differently.”

The data can be used for investigating liability, if captured before the car is sold or destroyed, he said.

Eby said drivers aren’t discouraged from providing relevant dashcam footage to ICBC, but “it just doesn’t seem like the most obvious response to fraud.”

Aaron Sutherland of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said dashcam footage may help a driver determine liability and save him paying his own deductible, but he said collecting telematics through apps is better at determining driving habits. He said insurers in Alberta and Ontario, where there is competition for car insurance, already offer discounts based on these apps, and insurers can also use the data to provide drivers with discounts based on their actual monthly usage.

B.C. Winter driving spot check on mid-Island nets more than bad tires

Posted By: Dean Stoltz | CHEK News

It can be an intimidating moment when you come up to a police roadblock and are waved off the highway for an inspection, but a multi-agency spot check on the Inland Island Highway near Horne Lake Wednesday left a few people out.

“Making sure that they have their headlights and their tail lights are all working appropriately, that even their licence plate light that a lot of people overlook is working and their tires are adequate for the season, that they are mud and snow rated at the very minimum,” said Const. Tamara Aquilini of RCMP Central Island Traffic Services.

Tire tread of overall vehicle safety was being inspected.

“They need to do it, there’s lots of people driving vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road this time of year.” said one driver who was pulled over.

“I think it’s great,” said another driver. “It’s always good to be safe and you can never do it too early because you can never know when the snow is going to come.”

Police found other problems as well like the rusted out frame of a fully-loaded pickup truck.

They also found illegal drugs and a gun.

“The driver had no drivers licence,” said Aquilini. “That led to a little bit more further investigation which as you saw lead to marijuana, fireworks, a rifle.”

Commercial vehicle inspectors were also present checking trucks for deficiencies as well as officers from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“We’re mainly focused on the transportation of timber products so we can do it jointly,” said Natural Resources Officer Elliot Molsberry. “They can look at safety of the vehicle while we can look at how the timber is marked and if they’re adhering to the regulations.”

The multi-agency spot check lasted six hours.

When the weather outside is frightful: safe driving tips for winter conditions

SGI: News Release – Nov. 1, 2017

Winter is coming, but winter driving conditions are already here. When roads are icy and swirling snow reduces visibility, it can be intimidating for drivers. Here are some tips to keep you and yours safe out on the roads this winter:

  • Clear snow from your vehicle, including headlights and taillights, and be sure your windows are completely defrosted before you drive.
  • Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions. Adjust your speed accordingly when conditions are less than favourable, like when roads are icy or there is low visibility.
  • Leave more distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, so you have more time to stop. SGI recommends at least a four-second following distance.
  • Give yourself extra time to get to your destination so you’re not tempted to drive too fast for road conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights at night and any time visibility is poor, since some vehicles do not have taillights on when daytime running lights are being used.
  • Don’t use cruise control in slippery conditions.
  • Invest in a set of winter tires, which provide improved traction on winter road surfaces.
  • Buckle up. Every time.

Lastly, be sure to check the weather forecast and the Highway Hotline (1-888-335-7623) before you set off on your travels. If travel isn’t recommended, stay off the roads.

Driving in a blizzard

Keep an emergency travel kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded. The kit can include warm clothes, a shovel, blankets, a snow brush, ice scraper, booster cables, flashlight, flares, matches, a candle and a tin cup (to melt snow for water) and food like chocolate, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts or soup mixes that can be added to water.

Unfortunately, taking precautions against blizzard conditions doesn’t mean you can prevent them. If conditions deteriorate while you’re on the road, stop at the nearest town or rest area and wait until it’s safe to drive.

If you find yourself stranded with your vehicle:

  • Remain inside your vehicle because it will offer you protection from the harsh winter elements.
  • Run your engine sporadically to get some heat but be careful not to run out of gas. In that case, the blankets, candles and matches you packed in your roadside emergency kit will serve you well.
  • When running your engine, ensure that your vehicle’s exhaust pipe is clear of snow and ice. If it’s plugged, fumes will seep into your vehicle, resulting in possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you find you need fresh air, your best option is to slightly lower the windows facing opposite the wind direction and open your vehicle’s heater vent.

Slow to 60

If an emergency vehicle (police, fire, ambulance) is stopped on the side of the road with its lights flashing, you must slow to 60 km/h, unless you’re driving on the opposite side of a divided highway. The same rule applies for tow trucks at the side of the highway with amber or amber and blue lights flashing.

Failing to slow down puts emergency workers and other motorists at risk of serious injury or even death. What’s more, you’ll face a fine of $140, plus $2 for every kilometre over the 60 km/h speed limit. If a driver is over 90 km/h, the fine increases to $4 for every kilometre over the 60 km/h speed limit.

If snow plows are working the roads, give them room to work, and stay back when you approach the mini-blizzard they create. They travel slower than the average vehicle, so be patient. Snow plows will pull over at regular intervals (every 10 km or so) to allow vehicles to pass.

Car seat safety

Have a little one travelling with you? SGI recommends you dress your child in thin, warm layers or a light jacket with a blanket overtop, instead of a bulky snowsuit or winter gear. If there is anything thick between the straps and the child – for example winter clothes, a bunting bag, a pad or blanket – the seat stops working like it’s designed and crash tested to work.

A good test to determine if the child’s winter jacket is too bulky is to buckle your child in the car seat with the jacket on. Then, take your child out of the car seat, take off their jacket, and see how loose the straps are. Remember that you should only be able to fit one finger between the strap and the child’s chest.

No matter what season it is, every driver and passenger should always wear a seatbelt, avoid driver fatigue, and never drive impaired. SGI reminds drivers to refrain from habits that cause distracted driving like using a hand-held cellphone, eating or grooming.

Average driver will pay $130 more per year for insurance once all the increases come into effect

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