The federal government said it has no plans to step into the distracted driving debate, even with Canada’s insurance industry calling for tougher laws to be enacted.
Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said toughening the laws isn’t on their radar, now or in the future, despite the government saying earlier this month that it’s an issue they needed to look at.
“In the criminal code provisions are there for distracted driving that could manifest itself for texting and driving,” she says. “But the provinces have taken a leadership role on this issue.”
Responding to a question from Global News on Sept. 9, Wilson-Raybould said she would have discussions with her provincial counterparts when they meet next month.
In a recent interview, Allstate Canada CEO Ryan Michel said distracted driving accidents are on the rise despite programs to reward good drivers.
“We’ve seen in our own experience a lot more rear-end collisions,” said Michel. “Where is that coming from, right?”
Currently, distracted driving is treated differently in every province with fines ranging from $100 to over a thousand dollars and three to five demerit points. And apart from raising rates and refusing to insure, there’s little the insurance industry can do apart from asking the federal government to amend the laws.
“We here at Allstate would definitely support tougher actions that make people safer on the roads, absolutely, in countering distracted driving,” said Michel. “We know there are fines that are out there, but it doesn’t seem to be fully taking hold, otherwise we’d see some of these things change.”
READ MORE: Quebec’s Couillard calls on Ottawa to criminalize distracted driving
Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada added the real change is going to have to come from those in power.
“We now have every province with bans from using handheld devices while driving, so the question is are they tough enough? Are they getting the message across? It’s the government that has to measure that and take the lead because they are the ones who have the authority.”