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Demerit penalty for texting drivers starts today

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Today, the government officially ups the ante for motorists caught texting or using hand-held devices while driving.

In addition to a fine of $200, you will receive two demerit points if you are nailed for distracted driving.

The demerits will be an additional zing to the wallet when those charged try to renew their licences and pay for their auto insurance.

Police say a texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a non-texting driver. Justice Minister Andrew Swan added the increase in demerits has become necessary because "too many drivers have not changed their behaviour."

According to figures from Manitoba Public Insurance, about 160 road deaths have been linked to distracted driving since 2005, about 20 a year.

Swan said two demerits was picked because it’s the same penalty for a speeding offence, adding that law enforcement will watch during the next year to assess the effects on the number of distracted-driving offences.

If the numbers do not budge downward, an additional demerit point could be added.

History

Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 11:45 AM CDT: Corrects that drivers will receive demerit points

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