The newly-formed Society Against Distracted Driving (SADD) is comrpised of (L-R) Buce Smith, Brian Kostiuk (holding up a finger for every time his life has been threatened by a distracted driver) Karen Dietrich and Eileen Braaten. Paul Rodgers photo.

New organization takes on distracted driving

Still in their early stages, Society Against Distracted Driving seeks to raise awareness, education

Brian Kostiuk, a Cranbrook resident for over 50 years, said that in the last two to three years he’s had his life threatened by distracted drivers five times. Never one to shy away from a cause he felt passionately about, Kostiuk took it upon himself to do something to address and decrease distracted driving.

Initially, Kostiuk who was formerly on the Cranbrook in Motion Committee until it was disbanded, joined forces with Bruce Smith and Karen Dietrich and made up some bumper stickers to spread their message, but found that they weren’t overly effective, as displaying them is a personal choice for people.

So, as distracted driving accidents continue to frequently occur, the three of them, alongside Eileen Braaten who herself has been rear-ended twice in the last year and a half, formed a non-profit society, with Braaten and Dietrich as director and executive director, respectively, Smith as Vice President and Kostiuk as president. Now the Society Against Distracted Driving (SADD) has been incorporated for about three months.

“The four of us are pretty likeminded in this,” said Smith. “And the problem with distracted driving is, nobody’s paying attention to it. They’re all giving it lip service and I’m talking everybody — the government, whoever.”

Smith knows the dangers of distracted driving first hand from his professional work, both working in the automotive industry as dealer principal at Alpine Toyota and as an auxiliary RCMP constable.

“When I’m working on patrol, I see it all the time and when I’m out driving personally, I pull up to a light and there’s a guy on his phone,” Smith said.

“Now if there’s someone coming behind them or moving through an intersection they can’t possibly know what’s going on. And we’ve seen that personally and then again with the police work you see it all the time. You go to a motor vehicle accident, it’s a direct result of distracted driving.”

He said that their hope is to bring more awareness to the dangers and repercussions of distracted driving — move the conversation up to the forefront, educate the public and get it to the point where it is on the same level as drunk driving.

“Accident occurrences are as high from distracted as they were from impaired driving and when you brought impaired driving out to the forefront, things started to change,” Smith said. “We hope to do the same with distracted driving.”

The group members agreed that one of the big hinderances in their pursuit comes down to a lack of readily available statistics for them to look at. They have been able to get some from ICBC, and these are disconcerting to say the least.

“Did you know?” the SADD business card reads, “More than 25 per cent of all crash fatalities in BC are due to distracted driving. That is 78 deaths a year that are preventable.” That number is actually higher than the total number of fatalities in the province caused by impaired driving. Deaths due to drunk driving have decreased substantially over the years, due in part to the educational efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“Penalties and education are the two ways you can adjust behaviour,” said Smith. Their hope is to spread education, and penalties are indeed on the rise.

It was announced last month that the Province of BC will be implementing stricter distracted driving penalties as accidents surged. Now a driver with two distracted driving tickets in a three-year period will see their total financial penalties rise to as much as $2,000. That is an increase of over $740 over existing penalties, and is in addition to their regular insurance premium.

“That’s a good thing,” said Smith, “that tells you that someone in the government is actually listening.”

After attaining public and commercial support, they can begin developing a curriculum and hope to start working in schools, similar to the RCMP P.A.R.T.Y. program.

So far the campaign has been well received. “It’s so easy to talk to people about it, complete strangers in the mall or something,” said Kostiuk. “Ask them, what do you think about distracted driving? ‘ Yeah that’s just terrible.’”

For more information and to support SADD you can visit www.saddbc.ca and follow them on Facebook @saddbc. You can purchase corporate membership for $175 or make a donation and can put your company’s logo onto their website.

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