Manitoba

Distracted drivers in Manitoba will face licence suspension, tripling of fine

If you're caught driving while using a cellphone next month, police will strip you of your driver's licence for three days and impose a fine that's triple the existing financial penalty.

New sanctions include 3-day licence suspension, $672 fine, 5 demerit points for careless driving conviction

Starting next month, people caught driving with a handheld electronic device must immediately hand over their driver's licence for a three-day period. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Manitoba government will impose tougher sanctions on distracted drivers beginning next month. 

If you are caught with a cellphone behind the wheel, police will strip you of your driver's licence for three days and level a fine — triple the current amount — of $672.

"November the first is going to be very shocking for a lot of people," Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said of the day the new legislation, introduced in the Manitoba Legislature earlier this year, takes effect.

Distracted drivers who are caught by police will face a mandatory three-day suspension from getting behind the wheel. They will be subject to an additional seven-day ban if they break the law again within a 10-year period.

The fine amount for carrying a handheld electronic device will jump threefold from $203 to $672 and, if convicted, people will continue receiving five demerit points on their driving record.

Penalty equal to public pot

The new fine is the same penalty cannabis users will face for smoking pot in public, but lower than the minimum $1,000 penalty for a first conviction of impaired driving.

After surrendering their license for using a cellphone, drivers will receive a temporary driving permit so they aren't left stranded on the side of the road. The automatic suspension will begin at the end of the next day.

Schuler explained that distracted driving could range from texting while behind the wheel to having a bite to eat.

Manitoba Public Insurance will be informed any time a driver is nabbed for not paying attention. Drivers must pay $50 to retrieve their license and MPI may issue a further driving suspension, depending on their existing driving history.

Why one police officer has made it his personal mission to eliminate distracted driving:

For Sgt. Rob Duttchen ending distracted driving is personal. In 2009, his father was killed in Arizona by a driver who was texting. 1:51

In addition, the Manitoba government is increasing the demerit penalty for careless driving, beginning Nov. 1, from two points to five points. A driver does not need to be carrying a handheld device to be charged for this infraction.

Schuler said the year-after-year hike in distracted driving accidents convinced the government to enact higher penalties.

Manitoba Public Insurance said distracted driving accidents went from 4,780 in 2012 to 15,403 in 2017.

Last year, 30 people lost their lives and 184 people were seriously hurt in collisions blamed on drivers who weren't alert.

"We are losing far too many of our loved ones, our fellow Manitobans, with very risky behaviours," Schuler said.

MPI will update its TV, radio and print ads to reflect the stiffer penalties for distracted driving.

Corrections

  • We initially reported that people convicted of distracted driving will start to earn five demerit points beginning Nov. 1. In fact, that five-demerit penalty is already in place, but careless driving convictions will soon result in five demerits.
    Oct 16, 2018 3:22 PM CT

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is covering the Manitoba provincial election for CBC Manitoba. He previously has reported on provincial politics and breaking news in Winnipeg, Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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