(Creative Commons photo)

LETTER: Major changes needed to combat distracted driving

“Without some kind of forward thinking, where will our system be in five or 10 years?”

Lately there has been much input into the state of our roads, and road system, and I would like to add to this.

Though a complicated problem with ever growing population and limited dollars to upgrade any part of the overall system, I think we need to step back to understand the very basics of a small, but integral part of this problem.

As someone who drives approximately six hours a day going from site to site, running multiple projects south of the Fraser from Richmond to Langley, it is the very state of the competence of drivers along with the use of mobile devices that are by far the biggest problems.

Having driven in this city for 34 years, the basics of driving skills has deteriorated to the point where probably 20 per cent of drivers should not even be on the roads, and I believe that is attributed to the combination of the very low standards required by the province to receive your licence, and what appears to be the liberal allowance of anyone with a car and a magnetic sign to open a driving school.

Having just returned from Germany where the standards to receive your licence are much higher and the accreditation of driving schools is much more regulated, driving on roads where you feel safe — even at allotted speeds well above 150-200 kilometres per hour — reminds me of when you could feel safe driving in the Lower Mainland.

Living in North Delta, I have seen driving school cars where there are two four-year-olds standing on the back seats while the instructor is on a cell phone, grabbing the wheel of the poor person they are trying to teach. The standard is simply too low considering how many more cars are on the road from even 10 years ago.

The province has to step up as they maintain the biggest problem for ICBC is the amount, and cost, of accidents. People simply need a higher standard to reach to be allowed to be on our road systems and, if that standard is not attainable, to not be on our crowded roads. The exclusion of a few is far outweighed by the safety of the many.

Living in North Delta, and having the privilege of an eight- to nine-minute commute to my office at 6 a.m., it is astounding that on some mornings, I will see four to five people on their phones, even at that hour. And in the course of the day, I can see well over 50 people either blatantly using a phone, doing the head forward but eyes down thing, or being honked at because the light turned green 10 seconds ago and the person behind knows the person in front has their head buried in their phone.

On my recent vacation to Europe, I never saw five people on a device in three weeks. This goes part and parcel with the higher learning standards, the levelling of fines and loss of licence for minor infractions and, yes, enforcement.

I’m no angel. Four years ago I received a distracted driving ticket and went about changing my ways. I bought a holder, earphones, and found out both the laws and how I could conform, now being touchless. But from observation, that is not how the majority of people go about it. There is a sense of absolute entitlement from the driving public that can only be curtailed with the province metering out large tickets that make sense: $500 for the first offence, $2,000 for the second, loss of driving privileges for one year or more for the third, or worse.

Now to enforcement. It’s obvious with the amount of problems on their plate that local law enforcement simply isn’t able to cope with what to them must seem a problem that in the past was dealt with by a vehicle patrol division. Then think outside the box: Hire and empower a division simply to deal with these enforcement problems, being able to travel and move throughout the entire Lower Mainland and, if needed, pay for it out of the fines. This revenue generated and put into enforcement could allow us to once again feel safe driving on our roads, which has not been the case in a long time.

I know it may not be that easy, but without some kind of forward thinking, where will our system be in five or 10 years.

Ernie Gettings, North Delta