Editorial: Educating younger generation best solution for distracted driving

The public is demanding stiffer penalties for drivers who text or talk on cellphones while behind the wheel.

If B.C. residents who responded to a poll have their way, the current $167 fine (the second-lowest in Canada) and three penalty points, currently levied against distracted drivers could see a big boost.

Other provinces have done far more to try to curb the practice. In Saskatchewan, repeat offenders can see their vehicles impounded, while in Ontario, distracted drivers face a potential $1,000 ticket.

Whether that’s led to better results than B.C.’s — where 88 people died last year as a direct result of distracted driving — we can’t say. But it might be worth a try.

We’re all for anything that makes people stop and think before they do something that puts their own and others’ lives needlessly in danger. But at the risk of sounding defeatist, we’re not convinced it will help.

The problem is, you can’t legislate a social conscience.

There are always going to be people who will put their own immediate needs ahead of what is best for the group, whenever the latter doesn’t suit them.

There will always be people who will water their lawns and wash their cars during a drought; people who would rather flick a cigarette butt out a window than dirty their vehicle’s ashtray; people who prefer to let their dog leave a gift for a hapless pedestrian than pick up after their pet.

And there will always be people who will be more concerned about sending that “crucial” text or taking an “urgent” call than they are about getting caught, never mind hurting someone.

We call those people selfish.

The problem is, being self-centred is a lifestyle. It’s not a mindset that was created overnight and it’s not one that can be remedied quickly.

The only long-term solution we see is education, with the focus placed on an upcoming generation of drivers, to help them develop safer habits from the outset.

It’s a painfully slow process, we know, but it’s worked in the past — with seatbelt and helmet use, for example.

But while we’re looking to the future, that’s not to say we shouldn’t make breaking the rules sting a little bit more in the present, as well.