The B.C. Chiefs of Police Association is pushing for harsher distracted driving laws, including increased fines and even cell phone seizures for repeat offenders.

Victoria Chief Const. Jamie Graham said the association’s traffic committee passed a motion this week to recommend giving officers the power to snatch phones from those caught breaking the rules.

Graham suggested drivers could lose their devices for 24 hours on a second offence, then up to five days for subsequent violations. If the problem persists, phones could be seized permanently.

“We don’t want to be ridiculous about this but texting while driving is serious,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that there’s a big segment of the population that either just doesn’t get it or is deliberately trying to flaunt the law.”

Surrey Mounties said they handed out nearly 800 tickets for distracted driving last month alone, roughly 100 more than the same period last year.

Police are recommending other measures to reverse the trend, including increased fines. Graham couldn’t say how high the tickets could go, but said they should be “substantially higher.”

“The current $167 fine doesn’t match the seriousness of this,” he said.

The association may even ask the government to allow officers to impound vehicles for distracted motorists, as they do with drunk driving.

Any of the changes would require legislative changes, and Graham said he fully expects the measures to be hotly debated.

B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she is not currently considering strengthened penalties, but is open to the discussion.

“We know that just as it took time to change public attitudes about wearing seatbelts, it will take time for people to realize the danger they pose to themselves and other road users when they drive distracted,” Bond said in a statement.

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