Former solicitor general Kash Heed opted not to run in the May election and faded out of public view.
He actually dropped out of sight well before that, as he disengaged from the B.C. Liberal caucus after a rocky cabinet career. His monumental lack of interest in legislature debates was apparent to all during his last year as an MLA.
But he accomplished something significant during his stint, and it will become apparent to many drivers over the next few weeks.
ICBC and police launched a blitz this week against distracted driving, and it’s largely based on legislation he introduced in the legislature.
People could text and chat with impunity while driving before 2010, even though the practice was well on its way to becoming a social crime. Over a period of years, seeing drivers on their phones has gone from being irritating to intensely annoying, because it’s so obviously dangerous.
The tolerance threshold is going down, as well. And there was some discussion when the law was being debated about how long hands-free operation would be allowed. There’s a view that any phone conversation is distracting to drivers, no matter how it’s conducted.
B.C. was about in the middle of the Canadian pack when it came to responding to the issue. Five other provinces outlawed using phones while driving before Heed introduced B.C.’s law in late 2009.
It’s also in the middle of the pack when it comes to severity, with a fine of $167, plus three demerit points on the driving record.
The specifics include these provisions:
* You can’t hold, operate or watch any handheld electronic device while driving.
* You can use the devices if they have hands-free functions, or require only one touch. If so, the device has to be fixed to the car, or worn securely on the driver’s body. But drivers with Ns or Ls can’t use them.
* Emergency calls are allowed, and police, fire and ambulance personnel are exempt.
Several open-line shows covered the enforcement-blitz kickoff and asked people to describe the worst examples they’d seen. There were multiple stories of people chatting away while negotiating left turns through busy intersections, or eating whole dinners while driving, or even reading newspapers.
But there was a sense that people recount those kind of horror stories to minimize their own guilt. Because almost everyone with a phone is guilty of glancing at it or using it while driving at one time or another.
Prior to introducing the bill, the government sounded out the public on how it would be received. A survey found 87 per cent of respondents supported the curbs.
There’s a backhanded way to gauge whether writing several thousand distracted-driving tickets a month is having an effect. Prior to the law, the government produced an estimate that “driver distraction” was associated with 117 deaths a year on B.C. roads.
This week, ICBC is blaming driver distraction for 91 deaths a year. And it’s the main reason why anyone who gets busted during the crackdown should know there’s zero sympathy in most people’s minds for their plight.
Les Leyne writes for the Victoria Times Colonist.