Distracted driving focus of RCMP in February

February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight is focused on distracted driving – just as fines increased increase Feb. 1, 2020.

“Distracted driving is a serious safety concern in our province, and on roads all over the country,” said the Honourable Joe Hargave, Minister Responsible for SGI. “We hope by introducing tougher penalties – and especially strong penalties for repeat offenders – it will mean fewer people driving distracted and fewer tickets issued.”

What’s new: Here are the consequences distracted drivers can now expect as of Feb. 1:

  • First offence – ticket more than doubles to $580, plus four demerits.
  • Second offence within a year of being convicted of the first – $1,400 ticket, plus an additional four demerits, plus an immediate, seven-day vehicle seizure. Vehicle owners are responsible for the towing and impound fees (cost varies according to mileage, but expect to pay approximately $400 at least).
  • Third offence within a year of conviction of the first – $2,100 ticket, plus four more demerits and another seven-day vehicle seizure.

The demerits could also cost the driver insurance discounts they had earned or – if they are on the negative side of the SGI Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale – additional financial penalties, at $50 for every point below zero.  If a driver started at zero, and received three distracted driving tickets in a year, they would have to pay a total of $1,200 in SDR financial penalties, on top of the other financial impacts.

What’s not changing:  While the cost of a ticket is increasing, the laws around distracted driving remain the same. Hand-held devices are prohibited for learner, novice and experienced drivers, although experienced drivers can use hands-free functions on mounted devices through voice commands or one-touch. The vast majority of distracted driving tickets that are issued by law enforcement are related to cell phone use. In addition, drivers can receive a ticket if an officer witnesses behaviour that they can prove take a driver’s attention away from the road to the point they are operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner.

In 2018, driver distraction or inattention was a factor in more than 6,000 collisions, resulting in 774 injuries and 22 deaths. In 2019, distracted driving set three monthly records for the number of tickets issued.