Cellphone fines start Feb. 1

cellphone_drivingStarting Monday, Feb. 1, fully licensed drivers caught talking on a hand-held phone or electronic device will face a $167 fine, while those found texting or e-mailing will also net three penalty points, Solicitor General Kash Heed reminded British Columbians.

“Police have been stopping drivers throughout January to give them warnings about talking on a cellphone, and people seem to be getting the message and changing their behaviour,” said Heed. “But the grace
period will soon be over and drivers who don’t keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road will now pay the price.”

Heed and police Chief Jamie Graham, chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police traffic safety committee, joined forces at the PNE today to let drivers know that they need to make a new start in their
driving habits if they haven’t already done so.

Changes to the Motor Vehicle Act that ban or restrict the use of many electronic devices by drivers came into effect Jan. 1, 2010. Since then, police in many communities have conducted targeted enforcement,
issuing warning tickets to drivers seen violating the new rules. In the span of one hour, police on Vancouver Island spotted 27 drivers on the Trans-Canada Highway talking on a hand-held phone, resulting in 13
warning tickets. One driver who was pulled over continued to talk on the phone as the police officer approached the vehicle.

“The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has supported this new law from day one, and enforcement to date, with warnings to drivers, is already making roads safer,” said Graham, who heads the association’s
traffic safety committee. “The message we want cellphone tickets to convey is simple: No phone call or message is worth a life, so use your technology responsibly.”

Last December, ICBC conducted an informal survey at the intersection of Denman and Georgia and found 116 drivers chatting away during rush hour. Last week, a similar survey at the same location found only 31
drivers talking on their cellphones. However, this time many drivers were spotted texting while waiting at the light, and also while proceeding through the intersection.

Police enforcement supplemented new signs along B.C. roads at major international border crossings and airports, as well as a public education campaign by the Province and ICBC, in promoting awareness of
the restrictions.

Fully licensed drivers are restricted to using only hands-free cellphones and other electronic devices, and cannot text or e-mail while driving.

New drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program face a full ban on using cellphones and electronic devices, including hands-free units, and will receive both the fine and penalty points for any infraction.

Police, fire and ambulance personnel who may need to make calls in the performance of their duties, and motorists who need to call 9-1-1, are exempt from the new law.

For further details of what is permitted and what is prohibited under the legislation, go online to www.drivecellsafe.com and click on ‘Get the Facts’.

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