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Drivers caught texting, using cellphones to face demerit points on licence

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The province will soon add licence demerit points for motorists caught texting or using their cellphones while driving.

The Selinger government will bring in the additional penalty this spring, a government spokeswoman said.

Under Manitoba Public Insurance’s driver rating system, moving down the demerit scale costs drivers more to renew their licence, anywhere from $100 to $2,500.

Manitoba made using a handheld mobile device illegal three years ago. Currently, the penalty is a $200 fine.

CAA Manitoba said in a statement it supports the additional penalty as that a fine alone is not a significant enough deterrent for drivers to put down the personal electronic devices while driving.

"CAA Members have consistently identified distracted driving as the number one road safety concern," said Mike Mager, President and CEO for CAA Manitoba. "But after almost three years since the new talking and texting law came into effect, they say that motorists’ habits haven’t changed much."

CAA said in a recent survey its membership supports adding demerits.

CAA said in a Feb. 2013 survey, 77.6 per cent of the 8,651 respondents agreed that demerits should be added to the fine.

That was up from 66 per cent on the same survey in February 2012, and up from 58 per cent on the same survey in 2011.

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