Anyone ticketed for distracted driving in B.C. today will be facing some very expensive new penalties — more than three times the previous rate.

The fine for using a phone or other hand-held electronic device while driving is jumping from $167 to $368.

In addition, the number of penalty points is jumping from three to four, meaning offenders will have to pay another $175 penalty.

That puts the total cost for a first offence at $543.

If offenders are caught a second time within 12 months, the total penalty will jump to $888, and repeat offenders could lose their licences for three to 12 months.

While they may be stiff, B.C.'s penalties are still not the highest in Canada. In Ontario fines range from $490 to $1,000, while in PEI they are between $500 and $1,200, according to the CAA.

There are some exceptions to the rules. Drivers are permitted to use their hand-held devices when safely parked in a place where they are not impeding traffic, or when making an emergency call to police, fire or ambulance.

Drivers are also permitted to use hands-free devices, but only if they are not holding their phones, and not driving under a novice or learner's licence.

With files from The Canadian Press