EDITORIAL: Get tougher on cell use

Too many drivers are just “not getting it.” Texting and talking on cell phones is still a widespread practice in this city and across B.C.

In a matter of just a couple of hours last Friday, Abbotsford Police officers stopped 80 motorists who were using their cell phones.

Consider that local figure in the context of this chilling provincial statistic: The Insurance Corporation of B.C. says distracted driving remains the third leading cause of fatal car crashes in B.C.

On average, 91 people are killed annually.

Drivers are four times more likely to crash when talking on a handheld phone and 23 times more likely to get in a crash if they text behind the wheel.

Looking at your cell phone for less than five seconds is equivalent to driving more than the length of a hockey rink – 64 metres – with your eyes closed.

It’s common to hear the phrase, “Is it going to take someone getting killed in order to ...”

With nearly 100 attributed fatalities per year, that question has been answered in chilling fashion.

If deaths don’t convince people to keep their hands off their cell phones, what’s required here?

The fine for a distracted driving ticket  is $167. Clearly, that is not enough of an incentive to convince many drivers to put down the electronic device, and if they must talk, to invest in a hands-free.

What will it take to truly change people’s attitudes about driving and cell phone use?

Fines of $300? $500? Impoundment of vehicles, similar to the measures implemented to reduce impaired driving?

It’s obvious that the existing ban and penalties for cell phone use while driving, along with accident statistics, aren’t enough. And neither is hoping for common sense to prevail.

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