Changes under The Highway Traffic Act and the Drivers and Vehicles Act that came into force Nov. 1 will allow for short-term roadside licence suspensions for using a cellphone or other hand-operated electronic devices while driving, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler announced in October.
“Our government is focused on keeping Manitobans safe, and we are determined to reduce the growing threat posed by distracted driving that adversely affects Manitoba’s citizens and communities,” said Schuler. “By using the right combination of tools such as public education, legislation and enforcement, we aim to change public perception and make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as impaired driving.”
The amendments mean drivers will be subject to a three-day roadside licence suspension for the first time a driver is caught using a cellphone or other hand-operated electronic device, and a seven-day suspension for a subsequent occurrence within 10 years. Suspended drivers will be required to immediately surrender their driver’s licence at roadside.
The amendments will also require officers charging a driver with careless driving to immediately notify Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) to review the driver’s record in order to determine if further penalties may be required. As part of the changes for roadside license suspensions, MPI will collect a $50 licence reinstatement fee on behalf of government.
“These stricter penalties mirror those for impaired driving because the consequences are just as serious,” said Schuler. “This legislation underscores the seriousness of distracted-driving infractions and enacts stricter penalties for this behaviour.”
Further distracted driving penalties will also come into force on Nov. 1 including an increase in the fine for using a hand-operated electronic device while driving to $672 from $203 and an increase in demerits for careless driving to five points from two for each infraction.
Distracted driving is a serious road safety risk in Manitoba and was a lead cause of collisions causing serious injury in 2017, and increases the risk of collision by nearly four times. Thirty people lost their lives and 184 people were seriously hurt last year because someone chose not to put their cell phone down or engaged in other distracting behaviours while driving, Schuler said.
MPI will be undertaking a public awareness campaign on the dangers of distracted driving once the legislation is in force on Nov. 1.