Canadian auto insurance companies are pressing the federal government to make distracted driving a priority and take a tougher stance against motorists. However, there is a conflict of intentions between companies and government as lawmakers have said that stricter driving laws are not currently among the list of top priorities.
Indeed, the federal government has passed the buck to provinces, saying individual regions have the situation under control. Provinces are allowed to tackle distracted driving laws on an individual basis. This means laws change from province to province, with some going to war on distracted driving while other put more focus elsewhere.
The insurance industry is pushing for a more centralized mandate, a blueprint for how to handle distracted driving from which provinces can build. Global News has uncovered some details about how each province can currently have different fines and punishments for distracted driving. It shows that the fine can be from $80-$100 in Quebec to $500-$1,200 in Prince Edward Island.
Auto insurance companies are calling for a more rigid template, a set fine and punishment structure passed from federal government to municipalities. On top of this, providers believe current punishments are not strict enough to stop distracted drivers.
Insurers, however, feel that these penalties are not enough to discourage distracted driving habits.
Allstate Canada CEO Ryan Michel said in a recent interview that distracted driving accidents are increasing despite programs designed to reward law-abiding motorists.
“We now have every province with bans from using handheld devices while driving,” said Pete Karageorgos, Director, Consumer & Industry Relations, Insurance Bureau of Canada. “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.”
Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, however, admitted that amending the laws is not a priority for the government. Perhaps more concerning is that this subject is unlikely to be important for the foreseeable future.
“In the criminal code, there are provisions for distracted driving that could manifest itself for texting and driving,” she told Globalnews.ca. “But the provinces have taken a leadership role on this issue.”