As of Jan. 1 it will be illegal to use hand-held devices such as cellphones while driving in the Northwest Territories.

The penalty is a $115 fine plus three demerit points.   The new law also applies to iPods, laptops, GPS units and other electronic devices. 

"There is no grace period, so it's not like "Oh gee whiz I got caught ... I shouldn't get a fine," said RCMP Sgt. Wes Heron. "Ignorance of the law is not an excuse."

There are some exceptions to the new legislation. You can use your phone to report an emergency, or use a hands-free device. CB radios are also allowed in certain situations.

Transportation Minister Dave Ramsay said taking even a few seconds to text a message can have big consequences.

"You're basically driving blind," he said. "For a period, your eyes are not on the road. For a one second distraction at 45 km/h, it leaves you driving blind for 12 metres, about the length of an intersection."

Yellowknife resident Steve Norn said the new law has forced him to rethink what he does while driving.

"I've seen car accidents and a lot of really sad things can happen when drivers are distracted," he said. "It's a good thing to do. It's something worthwhile doing."

Details on what is allowed and what isn't can be found on the Department of Transportation's website.