Acumen Law Corporation claims ICBC and government exaggerate fatality rate from driving while on the phone

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      ICBC claims on its website that on average, 78 people die every year in B.C. "where distracted driving is a contributing factor".

      The publicly owned insurance company also declares that distracted driving is responsible for more than one-quarter of all car-crash fatalities in the province.

      However, these assertions have been challenged by Acumen Law Corporation.

      Through a freedom-of-information request, it determined there have been just 14 deaths as a result of motorists using an electronic device in B.C. between 2008 and 2016.

      The data from the B.C. Coroners Service notes that "cases still under investigation" are not represented. It also suggests the data may be underrepresented "as the role of an electronic device may not be known in some cases".

      Even with these caveats, Acumen lawyer Paul Doroshenko questions whether the enforcement regime has gotten out of hand.

      "What we see is people who are punished with lengthy driving prohibitions as a result of picking up their cellphone at a set of traffic lights," Doroshenko said in a news release. "They’re getting four-month driving prohibitions, six-month driving prohibitions, and those people are clearly not the risk they’re made out to be."

      ICBC, however, insisted last September that distracted driving "continues to claim more lives on B.C. roads than impaired driving".

      The minister responsible for ICBC, Attorney General David Eby, declared at the time that the government "is moving forward with a pilot program of new technologies to eliminate distracted driving among high-risk groups, and to increase public awareness of the risks of this dangerous driving behaviour".

      "Drivers need to be part of the solution too: put down your phones before driving; keep them out of reach; and keep yourself, your passengers and other road users safe," Eby said.

      Coincidentally during the 2017 election campaign, Doroshenko was one of Eby's more vocal supporters over social media in his Vancouver–Point Grey constituency. 

      That was demonstrated in the tweet below:

      On December 20, Eby signed an order-in-council awarding Doroshenko and 26 other B.C. lawyers prestigious Queen's counsel designations.

      Nowadays, though. Eby and Doroshenko are not singing the same tune—at least when it comes to the risks associated with talking on a cellphone.