EDITORIAL: Pull over, or pay up

About six years ago, the B.C. government acknowledged the fact that cell phones are a major distraction ...

You can’t say there wasn’t fair warning.

About six years ago, the B.C. government acknowledged the fact that cell phones are a major distraction to motorists, and that talking and texting while driving is downright dangerous, even deadly.

In came extensive public awareness campaigns, along with a $167 fine for “distracted driving,” which actually can mean more than just blabbing or typing on a mobile, although that’s the primary focus.

Clearly, that penalty was not near enough to dissaude thousands of drivers to put down their cells, or get a hands-free device, or simply pull over.

In 2014, cell phones were a factor in 66 vehicle-related deaths in B.C., and 630 injuries.

Last year, Abbotsford Police issued 407 citations for distracted driving. Across the province, that ticket total ran into multiple thousands.

So much for the argument that no one was paying attention because of a lack of enforcement.

And please, don’t complain that police should have something better to do – as if this isn’t a serious matter.

It seems that legions of drivers just can’t leave their cell phones alone.

So, beginning in June, a first-time offence of distracted driving is going to cost $543. That’s $368 for the fine, and $175 for four penalty points. A second offence carries an $888 hit, and an automatic review by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles that could result in a licence suspension.

The government decision comes after public consultation over the past year indicated support for tougher measures.

Now, even a few moments of cell phone yakking, or texting, is going to cost plenty.

It will interesting to see if this level of financial pain will finally have the desired result.