Cellphone driving ban enforced in Ontario, B.C.

Motorists in Ontario and British Columbia may now start paying a price for talking on the phone or texting while driving.

Hand-held grace periods end

Motorists in Ontario and British Columbia may now start paying a price for answering the phone or texting a friend while driving.

Monday, Feb. 1, marks the end of grace periods for distracted-driving laws passed in both provinces, meaning offending motorists will now be subject to fines.

Ontario's law has been in effect since October, but drivers using hand-held devices behind the wheel can now be subject to fines of $155. A driver who challenges the ticket may have the fine lowered to $50 or raised to $500 at the judge's discretion.

British Columbia's law has been on the books since Jan. 1, but now drivers can expect a $167 fine.

Calls made to 911 or other emergency services are exempt from the laws.

Demerit points in B.C., not in Ontario

B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed said drivers must change their habits.

"It is about remembering what's really important when we get behind the wheel, which is that we have lives in our hands," he said. "Just because you haven't crashed while texting or talking, it doesn't mean you won't if you continue with that behaviour."

Drivers fined under B.C.'s law can also be subject to a penalty of up to three demerit points on their driver's licences. Ontario's law has no such provision, but drivers who place others at risk by using a banned devices can be charged under existing careless-driving laws.