Advocates call for stiffer distracted driving penalties

Changes could be coming to Yukon’s distracted driving laws after the territorial government completes a review of current legislation.

Changes could be coming to Yukon’s distracted driving laws after the territorial government completes a review of current legislation. The Liberal government agreed to do the review — and to compare Yukon’s laws to other jurisdictions — after a motion put forward in the legislative assembly by Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White.

“There have been a lot more accidents lately that have involved distracted driving,” said White. “National statistics say distracted driving is the number one killer right now. Even more so than drinking and driving.”

White would like to see the fines increased. “The conversation that has to happen right now is: is $250 really enough of a deterrent?” she said.

Penalties for distracted driving vary widely across the country, ranging from $115 and four demerits in Quebec, to five demerits and up to $1,200 in fines in Prince Edward Island. In Alberta, distracted driving laws prohibit a range of activities while behind the wheel, including “personal grooming.”

In the neighbouring Northwest Territories fines start at $322 — doubling in school and construction zones — and repeat offenders have their licences suspended.

In the Yukon, distracted drivers face a fine of $250 and three demerit points. Drivers on graduated licenses also lose all experience hours and have to restart the program, even if they are using a hands-free device. Drivers recieve a one-month suspension of their license at 15 demerits. Drivers with graduated licenses have then suspended at seven.

During discussion in the legislative assembly, White said failing to yield at a yield sign carries four demerit points, yet distracted driving — which causes many more fatalities — carries only three.

Whitehorse resident Charles Behan believes higher penalties would be effective. His 18-year-old daughter Jessica was killed in a traffic accident in 2013, just months before her high school graduation.

Behan never received a full explanation of what caused the crash. He says it was distracted driving.

“I’d like to see the penalties go up. (A) $4,000 fine and six demerits. Now, are you going to use your cell phone again? I don’t think so,” he said. “This can’t happen to another family. It’s too much of a toll.”

He and his family have now started a Facebook group called Parents Against Distrated Driving to spread awareness.

Beyond stiffer penalties, Behan also thinks enforcement needs to increase.

“Go to any intersection in town and watch. There are people running red lights, people talking on their phones, not paying attention. There are people texting and driving,” he said. “I blame a lot of this on the RCMP. You don’t see them. They’re not enforcing it.”

Kate White agrees that the government, which sets enforcement priorities for the RCMP, could ask the police to put more focus on distracted driving.

She also thinks the lack of stigma around the issue is a problem. “As a society we frown a lot more on drinking and driving than cell phone use.”

The government has agreed to consult the public on the issue, but has so far given no timeline or scope of the review.

Contact Andrew Seal at andrew.seal@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Second attempted murder charge laid in downtown Whitehorse shooting

Two men are now facing a total of 17 charges in relation to the shooting outside the Elite Hotel

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Yukon Energy announces rate hike

The average Yukon household will pay an extra $20.48 every month

Brad Cathers is running for Yukon Party leadership

He formally announced he entered the race on Dec. 5

Santa Claus is coming to town

Parade set for Main Street Dec. 7

EDITORIAL: Time for the Yukon Party’s opening act

Having a competitive leadership race could be good for the party

City news, briefly

Some of the news from the Dec. 2 Whitehorse city council meeting

Arctic Sports Inter-School Championship draws athletes from as far as Juneau

The three-day event included more than 300 participants from kindergarten to Grade 12

Access road to Telegraph Creek now open

Ministry has spent $300K to date on work to clear rockslide

Freedom Trails responds to lawsuit

A statement of defence was to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 19.

Whitehorse RCMP seeking suspects after robbery at Yukon Inn

Robbery took place in early hours of Nov. 27, with suspects armed with a knife and “large stick”

Yukonomist: Your yogurt container’s dirty secret

You should still recycle, but recycling one might be giving you a false sense of environmental virtue

History Hunter: New book tells old story of nursing in the Yukon

Author Amy Wilson was a registered nurse in the Yukon from 1949 to 1951

Most Read