Police in B.C. issued 34 per cent more tickets for distracted driving in 2011 than the previous year, according to the provincial government.

In a written release, the province said using a hand-held cellphone is the top cause of distracted driving, and evidence shows talking on a cellphone while driving reduces a driver's field of vision by 50 per cent and quadruples the risk of causing a motor vehicle crash.

"Could any phone call or text message be worth that risk?" said Solicitor General Shirley Bond.

"When you buckle up, make it part of your routine to leave your electronic devices in the trunk, a purse or a briefcase. Don't risk getting a fine, points or, worse yet, a serious injury or death."

According to the province, 46,008 tickets were issued to drivers for using a hand-held electronic device while driving between Feb. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011.

During the same time period, another 1,372 tickets were issued to drivers for emailing or texting while driving.

"This law gave police another enforcement tool to help make roads safer, but two years later we are still seeing too many drivers texting, emailing and generally not paying attention behind the wheel," said Victoria chief Const. Jamie Graham.

"This dangerous behaviour has to stop or we will continue to see unnecessary and tragic accidents on the roads of British Columbia."

According to the province, distracted driving includes the use of cellular phones, GPS, adjusting stereos or tending to children.

B.C.'s distracted driving law came into effect in 2010, prohibiting drivers from talking on a hand-held phone or using an electronic device.  The offence carries a $167-fine, and drivers caught texting or emailing can also be subject to three points against their driving licence.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated 16 lives had been saved in two years thanks to B.C.'s distracted driving laws. The province now says it was incorrect to link the lives saved directly to the legislation.
    Jan 08, 2012 9:20 AM PT