Saskatchewan

Distracted driving fines to more than double in Saskatchewan to $580 for 1st offence

The penalty for distracted driving in Saskatchewan is set to more than double.

Starting in February, 2nd offence in a year will cost drivers $1,400

Fines for distracted driving in Saskatchewan will more than double in 2020 to $580 for a first offence. (CBC)

The penalty for distracted driving in Saskatchewan is set to more than double.

On Feb. 1, 2020, distracted driving fines will go to $580 from $280 for a first offence.

"Enough is enough," Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, said in a release on Tuesday.

"Despite increased enforcement by police and significant awareness efforts by SGI, 22 people lost their lives on Saskatchewan roads in 2018 due to distracted driving or inattention. That is 22 deaths too many."

According to SGI, distracted driving was a factor in more than 6,000 collisions, 774 injuries and 22 deaths in 2018. In 2017, there were 6,399 distracted driving-related crashes in Saskatchewan and 26 deaths.

New changes include:

  • First offence: $580 ticket plus four demerits.
  • Second offence within a year of being convicted of the first: $1,400 ticket, plus an additional four demerits, plus an immediate seven-day vehicle seizure (approx. cost $400).
  • Third offence within a year of conviction of the first: $2,100 ticket, plus four more demerits and another seven-day vehicle seizure.

Demerits could cost drivers insurance discounts they had earned, costing them more money. For example, a driver starting at zero on SGI's Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale who received three distracted driving tickets in a year, would have to pay $1,200 in SDR financial penalties.

Hargrave called the punishments "harsh and hefty" after Tuesday's question period.

"Many people continue to risk their lives and the lives of other on Saskatchewan roads by being complacent and choosing to ignore the laws associated with distracted driving," he said.

Hargrave said since 2009, distracted driving has been the single leading human factor in injuries and collisions in Saskatchewan and that since May this year, police have handed out 900 distracted driving tickets per month.

Saskatchewan was on the low end of the scale nationally when it came to distracted driving fines — only New Brunswick, had a smaller fine at $172 for a first offence.

Last November, Manitoba increased its fine for a first offence to $672 from $203.

"It takes a year, maybe a year and a half to two years to be able to see what the effect is," Hargrave said of fine increases.

Here are some of the distracted driving fines in Canada:

  • Alberta — $287.
  • Yukon — $500.
  • B.C. — $543 (includes penalty points through government licence issuer).
  • Prince Edward Island — $575.
  • Ontario — $615 if you pay it right away, but if you fight the ticket and lose the fine is $1,000.

Distracted driving is defined as follows under Saskatchewan's Traffic Safety Act:

  • Section 241.1(2): "No driver shall hold, view, use or manipulate electronic communications equipment (cell phone) while driving a motor vehicle on a highway."
  • Section 213 (1): "No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway without due care and attention.

'It's everything'

Regina Police Service Cst. Mike Seel outlined what distracted driving means above and beyond using a cellphone while operating a vehicle. 

"As long as it's distracting from the road, it's going to be a driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable consideration for others ticket," Seel said. "It's everything."

Seel said that for those who need to use the phone in their vehicle, it needs to be mounted in some way. People can touch their devices "once or twice" to change songs, answer or end a phone call or to have a map displayed. 

Seel said he thinks a higher fine will reduce the number of distracted drivers on Saskatchewan roads. 

"It kind of reminds me a lot of impaired driving," Seel said. "It was a very serious issue until police started increasing enforcement and the fines and the penalties started increasing."

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

With files from Samantha Maciag, Bryan Eneas

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