B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Distracted driving tickets not for ICBC revenue, B.C. minister says

Minister Mike Farnworth calls SenseBC analysis ‘nonsense’

Whether your phone is sitting in your vehicle cupholder to charge, or whether you actually use it for anything other than taking a hands-free call, it could cost you at least $543 for a distracted driving charge.

That includes the $368 ticket, plus another $175 for the four ICBC penalty points that were added in 2017 when the B.C. NDP government declared distracted driving to be a “high risk” offence. Two distracted tickets in three years will cost you $2,000.

Asked about a Sense BC video that shows distracted driving incidents declining in B.C., Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth dismissed suggestions that the blitz of thousands of distracted driving tickets in recent years is a revenue stream for the struggling public insurer.

“First off that’s nonsense,” Farnworth told reporters at the B.C. legislature this week. “I think most people in this province recognize that distracted driving is dangerous. Most people recognize in this province that excessive speeding is dangerous, and most people in this province support the measures to ensure that people drive more responsibly and safely.”

SenseBC’s video creator Chris Thompson emphasized the B.C. government’s focus on distracted driving being a bigger problem than impaired driving, as if distracted driving deaths and injuries were on the rise. The driver advocacy organization provided statistics to Black Press from public sources to show they are not, despite a huge increase in cell phone use since the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

The video, Speed Kills Your Pocketbook 2: Lying With Statistics, shows a CBC television clip of Attorney General David Eby, arguing that because impaired driving fatalities and injuries are falling faster than those attributed to distracted driving, the latter should be cracked down on further. One proposed next step would be to void ICBC insurance in the case of distracted driving, as with impaired driving or street racing.

RELATED: Cell phone tickets a tax grab, driver advocates say

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“Actually some of the stats that we’ve received indicate that distracted driving could be a worse problem than impaired driving,” Eby told the CBC. “So to treat distracted driving as different from impaired driving seems strange.”

Thompson, whose 2013 video Speed Kills Your Pocketbook led to increased speed limits on some remote divided highways in B.C., says in the sequel that that between 2007 and 2016, annual distracted driving fatalities fell from 100 to 80 per year. Over the same period, impaired driving fatalities fell even more, from 170 to just below 80.

“Distracted driving fines are skyrocketing because fewer people are getting killed by drunk drivers,” Thompson says in the video.


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