hi-textdriving-4col

Officials hope the distracted driving law will eventually change drivers' ingrained behaviours. (CBC)

It's now been illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving in B.C. for three years, but the province says it can't prove the law has saved any lives.

B.C. superintendent of motor vehicles Steve Martin says the law works, he just can’t prove it.

"I wish I could just say that we saved this many lives, and I'm just not confident in the data."

Numbers from ICBC show fatal crashes involving distracted driving dropped by about 20 per cent in 2011 — the year after the restrictions on cell phones came into effect.

But numbers were up slightly in the northern part of the province, and distracted driving is a factor in just over a quarter of all fatal crashes.

Martin says the number of tickets given to drivers using their cell phones has gone up a little in the past three years.

He hopes that number will eventually drop, but says it will take time to change drivers' behaviour.

"Our ultimate hope is that we see the number of tickets plummet because driving behaviours change. You have to have some form of a penalty, because some drivers are only going to change when they experience a consequence," he said.

"These laws are more along the lines of the seatbelt laws. They relate to ingrained behaviours."