SGI could adopt Manitoba-like penalties for distracted driving

Published: October 25, 2018

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Earlier this month, Manitoba announced plans to enact new distracted driving laws that will see stricter penalties for offending drivers. Neighbouring Saskatchewan is now considering implementing its own version of the law.

Starting Nov. 1, Manitoba will increase distracted driving fines significantly from $203 to $672. The number of demerit points placed on a license will also be increased from two points to five. Drivers also face a three-day roadside license suspension the first time they are caught using a device behind the wheel.

In a statement this week, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) Joe Hargrave revealed there is no current commitment to introduce harsher penalties. However, Hargrave said he will not be afraid to make Manitoba-like changes to provincial highway rules if he feels they are needed.

“We’re going to be more aggressive if it’s necessary, that’s for sure,” he claimed.

SGI certainly faces a problem with distracted driving. While the government and public insurer have tightened laws around distracted driving, the numbers of infractions continues to rise. On Jan. 1, 2017, new legislation was introduced to strengthen laws. Drivers are now prohibited from viewing, holding, or manipulating a mobile device while operating their vehicle. This law also includes hands-free systems.

Stricter Penalties

In July, SGI introduced insurance-based penalties of $200 for distracted driving. Each driver is assessed by SGI on a points-based ratings scale. A scale of 0 to 25 is classed as the “safe zone” A higher score results in a better discount. However, drivers below 0 and down to -10 are in the “penalty zone” and handed a one-time $50 fine payable to SGI.

Every subsequent point lost in this penalty zone results in another $50 fine. This means motorists could pay up to $200 to SGI and $280 for the provincial fine.

Provinces around Canada are going to war on distracted driving as it overtakes impaired driving as the cause of most road-related fatalities. In Ontario, drivers receive a $490 upfront fine or up to $1,000 if they choose to fight the infraction in court and lose. British Columbia hits drivers with a $543 for a first offence and $888 for a second occurrence.