Reeling from the death of his mother in India

Mother’s death inspires global effort

Distracted driving by cellphone users must end, says South Surrey man

A South Surrey man whose mother was killed overseas last week by a driver who was reportedly talking on a cellphone is calling for tougher penalties for distracted drivers.

“We’ve got to get some more action with the laws,” said Ed Pereira. “The regulations are ineffective.”

Pereira said his mother, Ivy, 89, was walking to church in Goa, India early May 30, when she was struck as she crossed a road. She died later that day of head injuries sustained in the collision.

Pereira said he was told the motorist behind the wheel was driving too fast and talking on a cellphone at the time.

Like B.C., India has laws prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones while driving.

They’ve been in effect here since Jan. 1, 2010. In the first year, 32,000 drivers were cited.

But Pereira said his mother’s death – along with close calls he has experienced here – proves more needs to be done to get the message out. At the moment, those found guilty of distracted driving in B.C. receive $167 tickets and three penalty points on their insurance.

Pereira is calling for driver’s licences to be revoked for at least six months on first offences. While he acknowledged it’s a move that likely won’t happen soon, he is certain the threat of losing their licences would cause more drivers to think twice before dialing behind the wheel.

“It’ll probably never happen in this lifetime, but we have to try,” Pereira said. “If the laws are not punitive, the public doesn’t pay attention.”

According to the RCMP, distracted driving was a contributing factor in 48 per cent of traffic fatalities in the Lower Mainland last year.

Pereira said he has had his own share of close calls. Late January, he was nearly hit by a driver on a cellphone while crossing Vancouver’s Main Street. The driver stopped “within two feet” of me, he said.

More recently – and closer to home – he was almost hit as he crossed 18 Avenue in the pedestrian-activated crosswalk at Southmere Crescent. The driver, who stopped “barely a metre from me,” had a toddler in the backseat and a cellphone in her hand, Pereira said.

He believes the next close call would have been his last.

“I’m not a superstitious person, but I believe my mother took the third hit… took my place,” he said. “This has to stop.”

Pereira has written to South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert to ask for change, and is encouraging others – including friends and relatives in Australia, India and Toronto – to follow suit.

Even if the effort simply inspires a few drivers to make a change, it will help, he said.

“There’s carnage going on out there… in spite of the laws,” he said. “The next person hit might be somebody’s child or mother.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

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