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Saskatchewan increases distracted driving penalties

Drivers caught texting and driving will face stiffer penalties in Saskatchewan next month. The province has more than doubled their first time fines for distracted driving.
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This sign greeting motorists to Saskatchewan on Flin Flon’s Main Street will need to be updated. Fines for using your phone while driving will soon increase to $580. - PHOTO BY CASSIDY DANKOCHIK

Drivers caught texting and driving will face stiffer penalties in Saskatchewan next month. The province has more than doubled their first time fines for distracted driving.

“Enough is enough,” said Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) in a news release.

“Despite increased enforcement by police and significant awareness efforts by SGI, 22 people lost their lives on Saskatchewan roads in 2018 due to distracted driving or inattention. That is 22 deaths too many.”

Before Feb. 1, motorists caught driving distracted only had to pay a fine of $280. A first offense in February will cost drivers $580 and four demerits. A second offense within a year of the first will cost $1,400, more demerits and offenders will lose their vehicles for seven days. Owners will also be responsible for the towing and impound fees. A third offense will bump the fine up to over $2,000 and another seven day car impound.

“Distracted driving kills and injures people,” Hargrave said.

“It is a serious safety concern and our government is sending a direct message to drivers. Yes, the tickets are costly. Don’t want to get one? It’s easy. Put the phone down, keep your head up and focus on the road.”

Distracted driving is the number one cause of collisions in the province, according to SGI, as well as the number three cause of fatal collisions.

The legislation makes a distinction between driving distracted and driving “without due care.” Drivers caught distracted by eating, using a GPS or grooming could be hit with a $280 ticket.

“Other potential distractions may include things like adjusting the radio, smoking or interacting with pets or passengers. These activities are not against the law and won’t automatically result in a ticket,” reads the SGI website.

“If your behaviour takes your attention away from driving and poses a risk to road safety, police may give you a ticket for driving without due care and attention.”

Manitoba Public Insurance says one in three deaths and serious injuries on the road involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving penalties in Manitoba are just as tough as their prairie neighbours.

According to CAA, Manitoba has the stricted first time offense base fine of any province in Canada.

A first time ticket results in a three-day driving suspension and a $672 fine. The next time, it’s a seven-day suspension.

The lowest fine amount for a province in Canada is Alberta, which only dings distracted drivers for $287.