Movie character Deadpool rides in a taxi driven by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in driver advocate Chris Thompson’s latest video. Mozart’s face was added to illustrate that if all he did was drive a car, he might still be alive today based on the declining risk. (SenseBC)

Cell phone tickets worse tax grab than speed limits, SenseBC says

Distracted driving statistics questioned as B.C. tickets pile up

Chris Thompson’s first traffic safety video in 2013 led to increased speed limits on some B.C. highways, and he’s hoping his latest one prompts similar reforms to the wave of distracted driving tickets for cell phone use.

The latest controversy involves $368 traffic tickets being issued to B.C. drivers for having their phones sitting in a cupholder to charge while driving, or being held in hand at a stop light but not used.

Thompson’s new video, produced for driver advocacy group SenseBC, is called Speed Kills Your Pocketbook 2: Lying with Statistics. It reveals how accident data have been selectively fed to news media to reinforce a need for a crackdown on cell phone use. That has produced a blitz of 40,000 cell phone-related tickets in recent years, with only two deaths actually related to cell phone use, while over the same period, 100 deaths for other types of distraction, prompted fewer than 5,700 tickets.

“So why the huge enforcement blitz for these two people?” Thompson asks in the video. “It’s because it’s so, so easy, and drivers have money.”

Thompson and Sense BC’s Ian Tootill argue that no one has ever died from looking at a cell phone while stopped at a traffic light, and almost none have died in cell phone-related crashes of any kind.

RELATED: Phone in cupholder isn’t OK, public safety minister says

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Thompson’s statistics show that the rise of cell phone use and phone-related tickets has actually corresponded with a decline in distracted driving deaths. Between 2007 and 2016, annual distracted driving fatalities fell from 100 to 80 per year. Over the same period, impaired driving fatalities fell even more, from 170 to just below 80.

The decline in impaired deaths has been used in recent years by Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to emphasize that distracted driving is now “worse” than impaired driving, and that cell phones are the key culprit. This is the “lying with statistics” that justifies the cell phone blitz as statistics improve, which has so far been supported by one judge in a ticket dispute.

Speed Kills Your Pocketbook 2 also reviews the way Transportation Minister Claire Trevena skewed accident statistics to justify reducing highway speed limits that were increased to as much as 120 km/h. Trevena rolled back speed limits on 15 sections of highway where they were raised in 2014 by former minister Todd Stone.

Thompson points out that some years were selectively omitted, and that the effect of two harsh winters on crash statistics was also left out, despite the fact that on some highways, actual speeds went down as crashes rose due to bad highway conditions.

Much of the video is devoted to deconstructing Global TV news reports, which breathlessly depict cell phones and increased speed limits as reckless killers of B.C. motorists. Thompson said most media outlets fell for the narrative that supports a massive revenue grab, much of it going to ICBC for penalty points and insurance rate hikes as costs and tickets increase.

“Take statistical news stories with a huge grain of salt, because a lot of times they’re biased towards sensationalism,” Thompson says in the video.

Speed Kills Your Pocketbook 2 includes a testimonial from a retired West Vancouver traffic officer, who says the fatalities show he was being ordered by government and ICBC to enforce the wrong things.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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