Are crafty motorists the reason for falling distracted driving tickets in B.C.?

Published: August 8, 2018



The number of tickets issued for distracted driving in British Columbia has steadily fallen over the last three years, but it is probably not because drivers have put down their devices.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) says between 2010 and 2016 police in the province issued over 300,000 tickets for distracted driving. Over 280,000 of the infractions resulted in a conviction.

The number of tickets issued increased between 2010 (21,300) to a high of 54,800 in 2014. However, over the last three years, the number has consistently declined, to 49,300 in 2015 and then 42,700 in 2016. So far in 2018, the year-on-year results show 6,000 fewer tickets have been issued (7,309 resulting in conviction) compared to the first half of 2017.

Mark Milner, program manager for the ICBC’s road safety division told the Vancouver Sun the public insurer is not sure why the decline is happening, although it could be because drivers are becoming better at concealing their distraction:

“It doesn’t seem to be that people are using their phones less behind the wheel. We certainly haven’t seen that reflected in distracted-driving-related crashes yet, and we don’t really see it reflected in our survey data either,” said Milner.

“While we see a fairly small, incremental improvement over time, we haven’t seen any kind of drops like we’re seeing in the ticketing. It could be just that people are getting better at hiding what they’re doing.”

B.C. is certainly coming down harder on distracted drivers than it ever has before. New penalties include a $368 fine and four driver penalty points for using an electronic device behind the wheel. Drivers with two convictions over a three-year timeframe could face a fine as high as $2,000, while their auto insurance is likely to rise.

Milner says the penalties are among the strictest in the country and have worked in reducing the numbers of repeat offenders. However, the regulations have not necessarily resulted in fewer tickets being issued:

“It’s tough to nab people, that’s for sure, because people that are committing that offence are fairly crafty at trying to avoid being seen,” said Const. Mike Halskov, with the B.C. RCMP’s E Division Traffic Services. “We have to resort to different methods to try to observe the offence so we can write the tickets.”