By Tom Davis
Vancouver, British Columbia -- November 30, 2017 -- What better way of curbing escalating insurance prices, than cutting down on the number of vehicle accidents. That's what British Columbia's provincial government, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the province's police are aiming to achieve with the launch of two new pilot projects that aim to cut down on distracted driving.
Distracted driving, according to figures from the ICBC, kills 78 people on average per year in BC and is behind one quarter (27 percent) of all car crash fatalities in the province. In a bid to slow this down, the three bodies will test two new technologies on the general public and the police force.
“ICBC's rates are under considerable pressure and one of those reasons is a significant increase in crashes, many of which are the result of distracted driving,” commented Mark Blucher, ICBC's President and CEO.
The first pilot - a partnership between the government and the ICBC - will include up to 200 customers using phone apps paired with telematics. The telematics technology will involve fitting a vehicle with a small device that communicates with an app installed on the driver's cellphone. The app works to block the use of a handheld device when the in-vehicle technology senses that the vehicle is being driven.
The combination of telematics with phone apps typically has allowed insurers to collect driving behaviour data, such as kilometres travelled and average speed, according to ICBC. The corporation, however, will be specifically look at the user's experience with the use of telematics in their vehicle.
Findings from the pilots will be used to inform future decisions around distracted driving prevention and enforcement, as well as changes to improve the fairness of how insurance rates are set.
In the coming weeks, ICBC will confirm two to three vendors whose technology will be used during the pilot, which is set to launch in January with results prepared in the spring of 2018.
"Distracted driving is a high-risk behaviour that jeopardizes the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike,” said David Eby, BC's Attorney General and the Minister responsible for the ICBC. “These pilots are the first step in a thoughtful examination of the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving. I look forward to the results to help us better understand their potential to influence driver behaviour and inform changes so insurance rates are set fairly."
ICBC and the government will also be working in partnership with the police to conduct an additional pilot to test a new distracted driving enforcement technology beginning in the spring of 2018.
A Bluetooth-enabled scope will be the latest tool police will have on-hand to capture distracted driving. Units will be tested by police in varying weather and traffic conditions for usability and effectiveness. The scope will capture an image that can be instantly shared with other officers in the immediate area. That officer will then have the ability to show the image to the distracted driver.
“Distracted driving is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in BC The safety of our communities is the highest priority for police and it is for this reason that we are taking the initiative to explore these new technologies,” added Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee.