Distracted driving by B.C. motorists in campaign crosshairs

Third highest cause of fatal crashes kills 31 a year in Lower Mainland

Police say they'll be out in force this month to ticket drivers who talk or text on hand-held devices.

Police and ICBC are launching a month-long campaign to deter distracted driving, the third leading cause of fatal car crashes in the province after speed and impaired driving.

In the Lower Mainland, driver distraction is blamed as a factor in 31 deaths a year and in 91 fatalities province-wide.

Transportation ministry officials estimate drivers are four times likelier to crash when talking on a hand-held phone while driving and 23 times more likely to be in a crash if texting.

Enforcement by officers handing out $167 fines will be stepped up throughout September, according to police.

And officials kicked off the campaign Thursday using a simulator to show the effect of distractions on a driver.

“Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention,” ICBC interim president Mark Blucher said. “When you’re distracted behind the wheel your reaction time is significantly reduced. Distracted driving is a common cause of rear-end crashes and injuries – there is no safe following distance when your mind is not on the road.”

A 2012 survey for ICBC found B.C. motorists consider texting while driving to be just as risky as drinking and driving, yet 40 per cent of those who own cellphones admit they’ve used a hand-held phone while driving.

ICBC says its statistics count use of communications or video equipment among the sources of driver distraction, along with driver inattention and other sources of internal or external distraction.