The law banning the use of handheld devices while driving in New Brunswick went into effect on June 6, 2011. ((CBC))

A Fredericton provincial court judge is threatening to impose the maximum fine for motorists found guilty of using a handheld device while driving.

Judge Julian Dickson's warnings come after a 29-year-old man pleaded not guilty to a charge of using his cellphone while driving.

In New Brunswick, the maximum fine is more than $1,300, including surcharge fees.

Stephen Olmstead, manager of government relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada in the Atlantic provinces, believes the maximum fine might be part of the solution in getting motorists to stop using handheld devices.

"I think what we're looking at is a longer-term approach to consumer education and towards helping people change their habits," said Olmstead.

"Increasing a maximum fine is certainly going to get attention from a lot of people."

Other distractions also dangerous

Rachel Kish, 18, whose friend died in a car crash while texting, would like to see fines extended to other activities that can distract drivers and lead to serious consequences.

"Eating and driving. I'm constantly doing that because I'm always on the go," she said.

"And if you're eating a sub from Subway and your pickles are falling to the floor and you're paying attention to that and you're not really paying attention to the road, you're putting other people and yourself at just as much risk as you would be if you were texting and driving."

Kish says it shouldn't take losing a loved one to make people stop their bad habits and pay attention to the road when they're behind the wheel.

She and her friends are all too aware of the painful consequences, she said.

"I don't think any of us text and drive anymore because it's dumb. It's stupid. And we're all learning from his mistake."

Year-old law

The law banning the use of handheld devices while driving in New Brunswick went into effect on June 6, 2011.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, drivers are prohibited from handling or using cell phones, texting devices and GPS systems while driving.

The minimum fine is $172.50. Drivers also face losing three points from their licence.

New Brunswick was one of the last provinces to impose rules on cellphones while driving.

According to a CAA study, drivers using handheld electronic devices are four times more likely to be involved in a collision, creating the risk of being seriously injured or killed, while those who are texting are at 28 times more risk.