British Columbia trials new distracted driving prevention technologies


The provincial government in British Columbia (BC), ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia), and the police are launching two pilots to explore how technology can help combat distracted driving on the Canadian province’s roads.

ICBC says that insurance rates in BC are under escalating pressure, in part from the rapidly increasing number of crashes occurring on the province’s roads, with distracted driving now responsible for more than 25% of all fatalities. The trials are further actions that government, ICBC and BC police are taking to reduce crashes caused by distracted driving, and form part of the partnership’s Enhanced Traffic Enforcement Program (ETEP). 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.

The first pilot, a partnership between government and ICBC, will include up to 200 customers using smartphone apps paired with telematics devices fitted to their vehicle. The on-board unit (OBU) communicates with an app installed on the driver’s cellphone that 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 has typically allowed insurers to collect driving behavior data, such as distance traveled and average speed. However, for this pilot ICBC is interested in the user’s experience with telematics in their vehicle.

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. The technology to be used in the pilot was determined to be the most promising, based on a review of submissions from a request for information ICBC issued in the spring. ICBC will recruit volunteers from its customer advisory panel, and is looking for participants aged 19 years and over from across BC.

The government and ICBC will also be working in partnership with 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, who will then be able to show the image to the distracted driver.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).