Posted on 06/21/2013, 12:15 pm, by

Drivers caught using their hand-held electronic devices will soon be assessed demerits, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance, announced.

The regulation is now in place and will become effective Aug. 1. Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) will be working with the respective police services to continue to raise awareness of this important legislation.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe on the road,” said Swan. “A distracted driver is a serious danger to public safety. Applying demerits for texting or using a cellphone while driving is one more tool to keep our roads safe.”

Currently, eight other Canadian jurisdictions already apply demerits for associated convictions. Manitoba’s cellphone law was first announced July 2010. Drivers caught using a hand-held device currently receive a $200 fine. Demerits will also impact a driver’s position on MPI’s driver safety rating (DSR). Demerits will trigger downward movement on the DSR scale and affect the insurance premiums payable on the driver’s licence, in addition to premium discounts on registered vehicles.

“Statistics show that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to become involved in a collision than a non-texting driver,” said Sgt. Rob Riffel, commander, Central Traffic Unit, Winnipeg Police Service. “Adding demerits, in addition to the fines that are already in place, sends a strong message that dangerous driving will not be tolerated.”

It is legal for drivers to make telephone calls if the equipment is a hands-free device and used in a hands-free manner. The law also allows use of a hand-held cellphone to call the police, fire or ambulance service in an emergency.

Earlier this year, MPI launched its first-ever distracted driving campaign. According to the public auto insurer, about 160 road deaths in Manitoba have been linked to distracted driving since 2005, an average of 20 per year.