Penalty points added for distracted driving

Three points added to $167 fine for talking on handheld phone, watching video or programming GPS while driving

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton

Talking on your handheld phone or fiddling with a music player while driving will cost you three penalty points in addition to a $167 fine, effective Oct. 20.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton announced the additional penalty points Wednesday, making it the same as the penalty for texting and driving. Penalty points are also added for infractions such as watching a video or programming a phone’s GPS system.

Anton said the B.C. government is also reviewing its fines and could increase them, but not to the $1,000 fine Ontario drivers face for a first offence of distracted driving.

“I think a $1,000 fine is rather high,” Anton said.

Penalty points remain on a driving record for five years, and result in a $175 increase in insurance as soon as they exceed three points. Fines and points for two distracted driving tickets in a year add up to at least $634. At nine points, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles considers licence suspension.

Anton said there were 51,000 tickets issued last year for distracted driving of all kinds.

“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,” Anton said.

Distracted driving is the second biggest cause of fatal vehicle accidents, with an average 88 people killed per year from 2009 to 2013. That compares to 105 deaths attributed to speeding and 86 due to alcohol or drug impairment.

Police can also issue tickets for driving without due care and attention to any driver who is noticeably distracted or inattentive and increasing risk to others.