B.C. pilot program offers workshop instead of $543 fine for distracted driving

A pilot program in British Columbia aimed at curbing distracted driving is focusing on education, rather than punishment.

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.

Thirty-two of the 42 people who were issued tickets opted to take the course.

During a two-day window in December, people issued tickets for distracted driving in Victoria were given the option to avoid a ticket if they participate in a three-hour workshop.

"Through this program people are accepting responsibility and they’re going to go and educate their family and their friends," Const. Matt Rutherford, spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department, told CTV Vancouver Island.

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.

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.

“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,” said Karen Bowman, founder of the distracted driving prevention program Drop It and Drive and the person who taught the workshop.

“I’d love to see this go far and wide.”

Originally published here.