POLITICS

Quebec considering more demerit points for drivers caught texting in their cars

09/24/2014 01:33 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST
QUEBEC - Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poeti is considering tougher sanctions against drivers who are caught texting, including hitting them with four demerit points.

Currently, Quebec motorists caught texting can lose three points and be fined up to $100.

Poeti said Wednesday it is difficult to assess the extent of the problem but added that many accidents are caused by motorists using their smartphones while at the wheel.

While it has been illegal since July 1, 2008, to drive in Quebec while holding a cellular phone, the number of motorists who have been nabbed doing so has climbed to 66,089 in 2013 from 11,485 for the last six months of 2008.

A survey conducted for the province's automobile insurance board in November 2013 suggested that 19 per cent of Quebec motorists who have a cellphone used it to text while driving.

Poeti told a news conference in Quebec City that it's time for action after various awareness campaigns.

"When the regulations first came in for cellphones, smartphones, messaging wasn't what it is today," Poeti, a former provincial police officer, said Wednesday.

"We couldn't predict what was going to happen. But there's no way of getting around the fact it's become a real problem in Quebec."

Statistics provided by the insurance board suggest drivers in Nova Scotia faced the stiffest possible fines in Canada. As of last April, those caught texting and driving in that province face fines that run between $225 and $520, although no demerit points are involved.

In Saskatchewan, motorists can lose four points in addition to a $280 fine.

Poeti said he has already held discussions with the insurance board about increasing the number of demerit points to four so "people really understand it is a matter of safety."