10/08/2014 03:35 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST

Distracted driving: B.C. adds 3 demerits points for talking on phone

Drivers caught talking on their cellphones or programming a GPS while driving will soon be slapped with three demerit points on their licence, the B.C. government announced Wednesday.

The penalty points will be in addition to the $167 fines drivers already face. This new penalty also covers infractions like watching a DVD, programming a phone’s GPS, and operating hand-held audio players.

Similar fines and points are already in place for drivers caught texting and driving, but the new points could see repeat offenders paying more for insurance too.

Any driver with more than three points has to pay a penalty premium on their insurance, starting at $175, and escalating if they receive more penalty points, said a government statement issued on Wednesday morning.

Thus the financial penalty for anyone who receives more than one distracted driving ticket in a year is at least $634 – the equivalent of two fines and a $300 penalty premium for six points. said the statement.

"As points accrue, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may also identify a driver as high risk and monitor or prohibit them under the Driver Improvement Program."

Justice Minister Susan Anton says it was clear that the $167 fine was not enough on its own to stop some drivers from using their phones.

"Adding these new penalty points to the ticket will quickly identify for us the drivers who see the fine simply as the cost of doing business.

"Some of them will have to pay a driver penalty point premium, while others will more quickly end up being monitored by the Superintendent and possibly even prohibited from driving, which will improve safety for all road users.”