EDITORIAL: Put it down or pay the price

New distracted driving penalties now in effect for West Shore motorists

Drivers continuing to text or otherwise drive distracted now face fines that have more than doubled. Tougher penalties and higher fines are also coming to those repeat offenders among us, who will be subjected to an automatic licence review that can result in a driving prohibition of three to 12 months.

When these new penalties were announced Transportation Minister Todd Stone said some people are still not getting the message. Well we hope people start getting the message, now that the consequences are hitting them a little harder in the pocketbook.

Police in the Capital Region even have new tools to spot you texting at a red light. This high-powered device can scope out drivers from up to 450 metres away, while taking clear pictures of you sending that selfie while stuck in rush hour.

Criticisms of the new punishments were flowing freely over social media on Wednesday, with many saying they are excessive.

Well those flashing blue and red lights appearing in your rear-view are the best case scenario for distracted driving.

We regularly see the other consequences. Heaps of metal that no longer resemble the car they once were are a too common sight on the West Shore. But at the end of the day, that metal is just a vehicle and what it is meant to carry is most precious cargo. Walking away from a wreck like that is often called miraculous by our first responders and it doesn’t happen all that often.

But don’t take our word for it. Let the facts speak for themselves. According to the Canadian Automobile Association, a person is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, or near-crash event, if they text while driving compared to a non-distracted driver.

It takes three to four seconds to open and read a text, according to our local traffic cops, when you’re traveling at 80 km/h you cover almost 100 metres in that time. That is roughly the length of a football field you just travelled blind.

Our region’s police also noted that distracted driving kills and harms more people in B.C. every year than impaired driving.

Eventually everyone’s luck runs out, don’t waste the little you do have on driving distracted. Next time you’re behind the wheel, leave the phone alone. That call or text message isn’t worth dying for.