Distracted drivers caught using a hand-held device while driving are going to be facing bigger fines starting Feb. 1.

Anyone convicted for defying the rules will receive four demerit points on their license and receive an increased fine.

After Feb. 1, the new fines will be:

  • $233.95 for a first offence (rising from $176.45)
  • $348.95 for a second offence (rising from $233.95)
  • $578.95 for a third or subsequent offence (up from $348.95)

However, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal says there are exemptions if people are using their phones to report an emergency. 

"We take road safety seriously and distracted driving has become a very big issue in our province — as serious as impaired driving," said Geoff MacLellan, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. 

"The bigger fines and addition of demerit points are an added incentive to put away your hand-held device while behind the wheel. We hope greater consequences will help influence driver behaviour."

For people with learner's licences, four points would suspend their licence for six months. For an experienced driver with a clean record, 10 points brings a six-month suspension.

"Texting and driving is a lethal combination, however this message is still not resonating with some drivers," said Insp. Bernadine Chapman, officer in charge of RCMP traffic services and member of the provincial Road Safety Advisory Committee. 

"As police, we see the devastating consequences of distracted driving and welcome anything that might deter someone from texting while behind the wheel. So please put your phones away when driving. It's just not worth it.