01/06/2012 03:46 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST

Road deaths from talking and texting cut by new law, B.C. government says

VICTORIA - The B.C. government claims the law making it illegal to talk or text on cellphones while driving has saved 16 lives since it was introduced two years ago.

The government says fatalities related to distracted driving fell by 12 per cent from February of 2010 to July 31st of last year, while serious injuries were also down.

During about the same period, police issued more than 47,000 tickets to people for using hand-held devices while driving, including 1,300 motorists who were texting behind the wheel.

Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond says the tickets show too many people aren't getting the message that texting or talking on a cellphone while driving puts lives at risk.

The government says using a hand-held device while driving quadruples the risk of having an accident.

Under the distracted driving law, drivers caught talking on a mobile phone can be fined $167, while those who are texting get hit with the fine and penalty points on their licence that could lead to higher insurance rates.