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Time to get tough on distracted drivers

May 20, 2016

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, April 1st 2016

 

 

Police conduct a road check for drivers distracted by cellphones, the penalties for which should rise dramatically, Steve Wallace writes.  Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Police conduct a road check for drivers distracted by cellphones, the penalties for which should rise dramatically, Steve Wallace writes.
Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

By now, most people are aware of the B.C. driver who has racked up 14 distracted-driving tickets and thousands of dollars in accompanying fines.

There are several things to consider when commenting on this incredible situation.

Why has Superintendent of Motor Vehicles Sam MacLeod not suspended the driving privileges of this menace on the road?
Normally, a driver would get a suspension at a 10-penalty-point level.
This woman has 12 points, as only four of the tickets — which come with three demerit points each — were issued after the points deduction for distracted driving came into effect in October 2014.
A new driver would get his or her licence taken away for two traffic tickets issued within a one-year period.
Someone has to be asleep at the switch in the superintendent’s office.

If this driving menace had received 14 impaired-driving convictions, she would probably be serving jail time.
But despite the fact that distracted driving has now equalled or surpassed drunk driving as the leading cause of death behind the wheel, there remains a “tap on the wrist” mentality by government for such offences.
The penalties for distracted driving are in no way befitting the crime.

It is long past time for the government to dramatically increase the penalties for distracted driving and for the superintendent to use the already available suspension tools at his disposal.
The superintendent has quasi-judicial powers that are not afforded other assistant-deputy ministers.

It is now time to use them.

The penalty for distracted driving should be the same as for impaired driving.
Impound the vehicle and suspend the driving licence.
About 80 people are killed each year by distracted drivers in our province, about the same number killed by impaired drivers.

Give police the tools to do the job, the courts the discretion to act accordingly and the public a sense of comfort they will be protected from such road hazards as the 14-ticket recipient.
Another difficult-to-believe driving-related situation happened recently in Toronto when a female driver was confronted by a member of the public for parking in a disabled parking space.

The offending driver was outed in a cellphone-recorded episode of what seemed like a version of Candid Camera gone viral.
Did the offending driver apologize? No! Instead, she threw a takeout beverage at the person recording the interaction.

I have no sympathy for those who park without proper designation in spaces reserved for those who are legitimately disabled.
Disability-space designation is difficult to obtain. Applicants must go through a medical-authority qualification process and apply for renewal at specific intervals.

Offenders are treated very lightly. It’s time for all municipalities to enact a tow-away policy for all violations of disabled spaces.
Owners of properties such as shopping malls and commercial spaces should be equally vigilant in reserving disabled spots for those worthy of them.

Unless the proper authorities take definitive and appropriate action in both situations, there will be an increase in vigilante-type “video gone viral” justice.
I once saw a legitimately disabled driver box in an offending able-bodied driver in a designated parking space.
The situation became very heated, until the police and a bylaw officer arrived on the scene.
People gathered around in an instant jury. The shaming was startlingly unanimous.

Cellphone video is an eyewitness game changer. Authorities take note, before you become an all-too-late solution.

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