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The new legislation, introduced Friday by infrastructure minister Ron Schuler, will also establish a seven-day suspension if drivers are caught for a second time.
MPI says distracted driving accidents in the province went from 2,415 in 2011 to 11,086 in 2016.
“We have a problem. And we want to be very clear that as a government, we take distracted driving as serious as drinking and driving,” said Schuler.
“It’s not just young people,” he added. “It’s everybody, our generation included.”
Schuler hinted penalties may also be increased under the proposed law, but he was prevented from releasing that information publicly because the Opposition New Democrats delayed proceedings in the legislature before the bill could be formally introduced.
While the bill was approved by the minister Friday, it cannot be distributed until Monday to give the Opposition time to read it, said Schuler.
While the new rules are meant to target those illegally using their cellphones while driving, “grooming your dog, putting makeup on, reading a book, cramming for your exam on the way to university, that’s all included” in the legislation, said Schuler.
“This will be very unique to Manitoba … and it’s going to work very well.
“We are going to treat it as serious as drinking and driving.”
In Manitoba, drivers caught driving with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 face an immediate three-day licence suspension, possible criminal charges and a minimum $1,000 fine if convicted. Those penalties increase substantially with subsequent offences.
Schuler could not speak to other details, like a possible increase in fines or demerits, or how the suspension would affect out-of-province drivers who are caught.
Currently, a distracted driving ticket in Manitoba brings a $200 fine and a loss of five merits.
The toughest penalties in Canada are currently in Prince Edward Island, which has a maximum fine of $1,200 and a loss of five merits, according to the Canadian Automobile Association.
However, Ontario is poised to up its penalties for distracted driving considerably, which will see a $1,000 fine and a three-day suspension for the first offence, $2,000 fine and seven-day suspension for the second offence, and a $3,000 fine with a 30-day suspension and a loss of six merits for all subsequent offences.
Those penalties will be implemented some time this year.
The most recent statistics show police hand out about 4,500 distracted driving tickets yearly in Winnipeg. RCMP issued 1,100 distracted driving tickets in 2016, up from 700 the year before, said an RCMP spokesperson.
Penalties in other provinces:
- BC: $543 fine for first offence, $888 second offence, four demerits. (Base fine of $368 plus $175 insurance penalty for first offence, base fine of $368 plus $520 insurance penalty for second offence)
- Alberta: $287 fine, three demerits.
- Saskatchewan: $280 fine, four demerits.
- Ontario: Currently $490-1,000 fine, four demerits. Proposed: $500-$3,000 fine; four demerits for first offence, six demerits for subsequent offences; three-day licence suspension on conviction for first offence, seven-day suspension for second offence, 30-day suspension for subsequent offences.
- Quebec: Currently $80-$100 fine, four demerits. Proposed: $300-$600 fine; three-day automatic suspension for first offence, seven-day suspension for second offence, 30-day suspension for subsequent offences.
- Nova Scotia: $233.95 fine for first offence, $348.95 for second offence, $578.95 for subsequent offences, four demerits.
- Prince Edward Island: $500-$1,200 fine, five demerits.
- New Brunswick: $172.50 fine, three demerits.
- Newfoundland: $100-$400 fine, four demerits.
- Yukon: $250 fine, three demerits.
- Northwest Territories: $322 fine (rises to $644 for distracted driving in school and construction zones).
- Nunavut: None.
Source: Province of Manitoba