As of June 30th, amendments to the restructured Quebec Highway Safety Code will be enforced.
Drivers caught using their cellphones, tablets or music devices while behind the wheel will now face harsh fines.
Simply holding a portable electronic device while driving a vehicle is illegal.
Fines will jump from $80 or $100 for a first offence to $300 and $600. If guilty of a second offence, drivers will have to pay double.
Repeat offenders within two years will now also lose their license for a three, seven or 30-day period.
The new law also increases demerit points from four to five.
Chris Evertson has never been caught texting behind the wheel, but admits with regret to have texted while in the driver’s seat.
The new laws have compelled him to reconsider picking up his phone at the wheel.
“I just heard about this but I am definitely going to think twice maybe three times before texting again,” Evertson said.
Bill 165 was tabled by Transport Minister André Fortin and is part of an overall road safety campaign. The aim is to reduce the number of deaths caused by distracted driving, which has surpassed drunk driving as the leading cause of death on the roads.
“Thirty-five per cent of deaths on the roads have been caused by distracted driving mainly by the use of cellphones,” said CAA Quebec spokesperson Annie Gauthier.
The stiff penalties are meant to bring caution to Quebec drivers, according to a spokesperson from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).
“The main goal is to change their behaviors on the road,” SAAQ spokesperson Mario Vaillancourt said.
There are, however, exceptions to the new laws. Mounted GPS units, on-board screens and cell phones used for navigational purposes on hands-free mounts will still be permitted.
Drivers are not the only ones who need to be aware of the changes. Cyclists are also hit with a fine increase of $80 to $100 for texting or wearing earphones while cycling.
Officials suggest pulling over before answering the phone. “If you have to receive or send some messages, you can ask the passenger or stop at a safe place and you will be able to communicate with someone else,” Vaillancourt said.
More information and guidelines can be found online.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.