As veteran Vancouver car accident lawyers, we have seen it all when it comes to distracted driving. It doesn’t just mean using a cell phone while driving. Distracted driving is anything that diverts attention from driving tasks: wiping a spill from your morning coffee to-go; looking for an address on a GPS; changing the song on an MP3 player; grooming in the rear-view mirror; or reaching behind the seats to find a toy dropped by a child in a car seat. These distractions take a driver’s attention away from the road and can pose a serious threat to the safety.
Research evidence has shown that approximately one-quarter of motor vehicle accidents can be attributed to driver distraction. Distracted driving is very costly in terms of vehicle and property damage, health expenses, and insurance rates, and it can cause serious injuries or death. In fact, distracted driving is the second-leading cause of car crash fatalities in British Columbia. Police statistics show that distracted driving causes an average of 81 deaths per year, behind speeding (94 deaths), but ahead of impaired driving (78 deaths). You read that correctly: distracted driving causes more deaths than impaired driving. It is a serious issue with costs in terms of driving penalties and personal injury claims. Penalties for distracted driving In British Columbia, the Motor Vehicle Act (“MVA”) defines British Columbia road laws and regulates driver behaviour. In response to the dangers of distracted driving, the MVA was changed as of January 1, 2010 to make it illegal to use hand-held electronic devices while driving. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not have the deterrent effect on distracted driving that the government was hoping for, so as of June 1, 2016 the penalties were more than doubled. Now a first-time distracted driving ticket in British Columbia will cost $543 (a $368 dollar fine plus $175 premium under the ICBC Driver Penalty Point program – also known as demerit points). For a second infraction within a one-year period, not only does the driver have to pay another $368 fine, but the ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium increases to $520. Additional infractions will result in a further escalation of ICBC Driver Penalty Point premiums. Distracted driving and personal injury claims Using a hand-held electronic device while driving is against the law and can result in penalties and fines. Vancouver car accident lawyers know that distracted driving in the more general sense (i.e., not just using a phone, but any type of distracted driving) can also impact a personal injury claim. When a car accident causes injuries, the victim has a right to seek compensation from the person who was at-fault. A car accident lawyer in Vancouver will gather evidence of distracted driving to support a finding that the other driver was entirely at-fault, entitling the accident victim to full compensation for the injuries he or she has suffered. In some cases, the other driver may argue that the accident victim was distracted while driving, and so contributed to the cause of the accident. If that argument succeeds, blame is split between the two drivers, and the accident victim’s compensation is proportionally reduced. An experienced Vancouver car accident lawyer knows the law relating to “contributory negligence” and can use it to minimize or eliminate the apportionment of fault. For example, it may be that the accident victim was distracted, but that the distraction was not in any way the cause of the accident. Distracted Drivers and Motor Vehicle Accidents in Vancouver If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, or you have been accused of contributing to your own injuries by driving while distracted, contact our team of car accident lawyers in Vancouver or at any of our 13 offices throughout the Lower Mainland for a free consultation about your personal injury case.