Pilot Project prefers education than punishing for distracted driving, B.C.

A pilot program in British Columbia aimed at curbing distracted driving is focusing on education, rather than punishment.The Project is offering workshop instead of $543 fine for distracted driving

In December, the Victoria Police Department conducted a two-day pilot project that saw officers give drivers who were pulled over for distracted driving a choice: face a $543 fine and demerit points, or participate in a three-hour educational workshop.

The seminar was joint effort of VicPD Traffic section, Restorative Justice Victoria, ICBC, RoadSafetyBC, and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.Both hard-hitting and informative, this interactive 3-hour seminar gave first-time offenders an opportunity to learn about distracted driving while taking personal responsibility for driving while distracted.

Thirty-two of the 42 people who were issued tickets opted to take the course.The workshop used educational videos and simulated driving situations to focus on the risks associated with distracted driving. The course included everything from cellphone use behind the wheel, to eating and applying makeup.

Const. Matt Rutherford, spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department said, “Through this program people are accepting responsibility and they’re going to go and educate their family and their friends.”

The Victoria Police Department is calling the project a success, but the course was only offered once. At least one distracted driving advocate is hoping the program will be expanded across the province.

Karen Bowman, founder of the distracted driving prevention program Drop It and Drive and speaker of the workshop, “Educating people seems to be having the most impact in terms of changing their belief system about what’s okay to do behind the wheel of a vehicle.”