Province considers hiking cellphone fines

Ryan Ross
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Transportation Minister Robert Vessey looking at boosting maximum to $1,200

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey says he is looking at the possibility of changing the maximum fine for using a handheld device while driving to around $1,200.

It could get more expensive for people who talk on a phone or text while driving as the provincial government considers increasing the fines for doing so.

The current fines for using a cellphone while driving range from $325 to $475, including a surcharge, but Transportation Minister Robert Vessey says he is looking at the possibility of changing the maximum to around $1,200.

“This is as dangerous as impaired driving,” he said.

In 2012, there were 258 people charged with using a cellphone while driving, while that number dropped to 215 charges in 2013.

The provincial government has taken steps in recent years to crack down on drunk drivers and Vessey viewed increasing fines for using a cellphone while driving as another step in making Island roads safer.

Vessey said the potential new fines are high but it’s a very serious offence and could help keep someone from using their phone while driving.

“You do the crime, you pay the fine.”

Changes to the Highway Traffic Act are needed to increase the fines and the earliest that could happen would be this fall when the legislature resumes.

Vessey said he has been having discussions about whether or not the increase will be as drastic as tripling the fines and it’s an issue the government has been looking at for a while.

“People continue to do it and the message isn’t getting through and fines are another tool we have in our toolbox.”

Vessey said the government is trying to get the message out that it’s unacceptable to use a cellphone while driving.

“There’s no phone call or text that’s worth a life.”

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

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Recent comments

  • City resident
    September 03, 2014 - 21:59

    Talking/texting while driving is a big problem. In addition to upping the fines to $1000 (1st offence), automatically seize the phone and make the owner pay another $500 if they want to get it back from the cops.... That's the 1st offence. For 2nd offence double the above and also impound the vehicle for 1 week, like Saskatchewan does... ( http://tinyurl.com/k4npvzh )

  • MFH
    September 03, 2014 - 20:17

    Some of the most frequent abusers of this law have been employees of the ministers own department. I actually saw a highways employee sitting at a green traffic light talking on his cell phone dedicated to his conversasion, while the traffic behind him was trying to pull out and go around him. Doesn't set much of an example does it.

  • John
    September 03, 2014 - 19:38

    Phones are a big distraction for drivers no question but it's hard to believe that the fine for using the phone is the same as drinking and driving! Vessey should consider putting that fine up x3 as well! Drunks / druggies cause a lot more deaths then phones !

  • Peter
    September 03, 2014 - 16:41

    I think $1200.00 fine is not enough. I think $2500.00 would be better. I also think if a driver is pulled over for texting or talking, the cop should run the licence and plates. If there's already an outstanding fine, confiscate both the car and the licence. If the car belongs to someone else, they can have the car back, but the driver still loses licence till fines are paid. If a driver has an outstanding fine, but not stopped for another infraction, then licence renewal is denied at the time of application.

  • A little steep
    September 03, 2014 - 15:44

    I'm already nervous taking my wallet out of my pocket or looking for something in my car while driving in fear that the police will think i'm using my phone. A $350-$450 is PLENTY. Make the repeat offenders get hit with double that fine.

    • Too Bad
      September 03, 2014 - 19:54

      A little steep...your response is nothing short of being ridiculous.

    • Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
      September 04, 2014 - 09:56

      I agree, always paranoid about the same thing. These Jabronis in office think I'm made of money?

  • reality
    September 03, 2014 - 14:12

    "VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE" does not work for people with no common sense ---asking for it is the same as enabling it --people with a degree of common sense are already doing the proper thing Cell phone using idiot behind the wheel of a car is just aiming it like a drunk driver -- make the fine $2500. and they might learn -at least the $2500 can be put toward policing or enforcement of laws

  • intobed
    September 03, 2014 - 14:03

    Triple the fines for running red lights and stop signs too please. Then have the police develop a "zero tolerance" policy to enforce these laws.

  • Cmac
    September 03, 2014 - 11:13

    Accually if you don't pay your fines you can't renew your license or registration. I am pretty sure you lose your license for unpaid fines as well. So there goes your driving privileges. And don't forget it's ok to call 911 when driving to report a drunk driver!!

    • Regular Joe
      Regular Joe
      September 03, 2014 - 18:12

      Yes but it's not dangerous to use it when dialing 911 ..lol

  • Me
    September 03, 2014 - 10:52

    Enforce the law as it is now and give repeat offences a triple fine. Most still do it as it is not enforced enough. Once the word gets out that a friend has to pay $300 to $475 fine, more will pay attention. If there is no attempt to pay the fine within 90 days then start confiscating vehicles, liscences, etc.

  • CHANGE NAME
    September 03, 2014 - 09:38

    Somesense should change the name to no sense. Why is it that Islanders think that road safety rules are for tourists only? If caught talking or texting on your phone you should automatically lose your licence for 30 days. Fines do not work as the majority do not pay them anyway. If you think this is harse wait until the time comes when you are at a green light and a car come through the red light because the driver is texting. Wake up people and join the real world.

    • SomeSense
      September 03, 2014 - 11:51

      Notice I did say texting is dangerous, but talking on the phone is another matter, it obviously depends on the person and the circumstances but talking on the phone can be done as safely as talking to a passenger next to you that is if you keep your focus on the road you can just as easily be distracted by many other things that could never be regulated. And I would agree with another commenter what about those doing makeup or reading something? distracted or reckless driving should be punsihed no matter what the distraction but talking on the phone does not mean the person is definitely distracted or being a danger and to say that all those doing so are guilty is simply wrong.

  • SomeSense
    September 03, 2014 - 09:17

    Raising it to a max of $1200 seems crazy are they not taking in the amount you thought they would with the current rate or do you just wish to really burden anyone who dares talk on the phone while driving, sure texting and in some cases talking can be dangerous but so can looking out the window, the radio or even passengers but unless driving recklessly none of that should matter I mean yo can already pull someone over and fine them for simply crossing the yellow line right but what is the fine for that I wonder?

    • Use your head
      September 03, 2014 - 10:36

      I couldn't care if the fine was 10k. If you are an idiot and BREAKING THE LAW by talking on or texting with your phone then you deserve that fine. Period. Here is some free advice. If you don't want to pay this fine then don't talk on your phone while driving. I can guarantee 100% you will not get fined.

    • SomeSense
      September 03, 2014 - 15:35

      Following the law simply because it is the law is certainly no proof your not an idiot, I'd say quite the contrary. Laws also change so does that mean all those 'idiots' who were breaking some law are suddenly smarter when a law is changed? If you go back in history there were some crazy laws even in this country or what about a country that follows the muslim laws are none of those fit to be broken? Our society certainly thinks so. The bottom line is things are not black and white and those that think otherwise are the idiots in my book.

    • Use your head
      September 03, 2014 - 17:57

      That's the kind of nonsense people who like to decide which laws apply to them rattle on with. Following the law doesn't necessarily make you smart but NOT following the law makes you and idiot. That IS Black and White. It would be a pleasure seeing these idiots get nailed with a $1200 or $1400 fine and a suspended license.

  • John
    September 03, 2014 - 09:07

    To double the fines is one think but to triple it shows a money grab on safety.

  • mike
    September 03, 2014 - 08:50

    I dont believe people should be using phones when driving but also ban things like reading when driving, doing make-up, How many times have you seen people reading something when driving or doing make up. Just because they are not electronic devices they dont get charged. Its still driving while being distracted. how is reading the paper any different then reading a text message. But 1200 bucks thats more then drunk drivers get. Not to mention thats more then driving with no registration or inspection. If anything hike the punishment for drunk driving along with this increase to the phone fine.

  • Doubter
    September 03, 2014 - 08:43

    Fines are ok but a lot of them are never collected anyway, and never will be. Better to give demerit points along with the fine, as people tend to pay more attention when their driving privileges are at stake.

    • don
      September 03, 2014 - 09:37

      fines yes but also take the car and they do not get it back till ALL fines etc are paid. and should cover drunks also.and if not paid in 30 days the car is sold to cover the fines etc and what ever is left in balance the drunk or talker has to pay. we all know they will pay when they lose there car.

  • Big Joe
    September 03, 2014 - 08:26

    I think the talkers and texters should get the same punishment as a drunk driver because they're every bit of a menace on the highways as a drunk. I see it every day and can't believe how sick these fools are when they can't do anything without their phones. They drive through lights and stop signs oblivious to what's going on around them. Perhaps if they lost their licence for a year, got a hefty fine and some jail time, they might wise up. But I highly doubt it. Their phone is like a drug to them. I even watched a young gal walk into a light pole in Charlottetown while texting. So stupid!

    • Alexander Graham Bell (I wish)
      September 03, 2014 - 19:32

      BANG ON Joe! I wonder how many times Alexander Graham Bell turns around in his grave every time these dumb asses use their texty phones! World's Worst Invention EVER.

  • don
    September 03, 2014 - 08:07

    considering a hike lol put it up or shut up. normal crap from liberals maybe yes maybe no. decide period.............