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Provincial government takes first step in renewed fight against distracted driving

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Amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act regulations will come into play October 20, increasing the driver penalty points from zero to three for drivers who are caught talking on a handheld device while driving.

This new penalty, which also covers infractions like watching a DVD, programming a phone’s GPS, and operating hand-held audio players, is being combined with the $167 fine already in place and is now consistent with the three points and $167 fine currently given to drivers for texting, according to a written statement released by the province.

“I’m very concerned that distraction in all forms is the second highest contributing factor in motor vehicle fatalities in B.C.,” Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said in a written statement. “It’s clear that the $167 fine is not enough on its own, so we’re starting by targeting those people who are talking on a handheld device while they’re driving with more severe penalties. Ticket volumes show us that more drivers are ticketed for talking on an electronic device than for texting and driving, and so that is where we decided to start with the new penalty points.”

Penalty points remain on your driving record for five years and can result in further penalties, including prohibitions from driving.

“Specifically, any driver with more than three points has to pay a penalty premium on their insurance, starting at $175, and escalating if they receive more penalty points,” the written statement goes on to say. “The penalty for anyone who receives more than one distracted driving ticket in a year is at least $634 – the equivalent of two fines and a $300 penalty premium for six points.”

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As points accrue, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may also identify a driver as high risk and monitor or prohibit them under the Driver Improvement Program.

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