The B.C. Government is set to announce major changes to the province’s distracted driving penalties later today.

The decision comes as current penalties aren’t enough to stop drivers from using electronic devices while behind the wheel.

Currently, the province issues a fine of $167 and three demerit points for distracted driving, which is one of the lowest fines in the country. Ontario and Prince Edward Island fine up to $1,200 with five demerit points for every distracted driving incident.

The provincial NDP’s public safety critic, Mike Farnworth, says he hopes to see harsher laws implemented, such as a $250 fine for first-time offenders and as much as $1,000 for repeat offenders — which sounds more than reasonable if it will encourage drivers to stay alert and safe on the road.

“People really need to get the message that texting while driving, it kills people. It’s now almost killing as many people as drinking and driving and it’s got to stop,” he said.

According to the CBC, distracted driving is responsible for 22 per cent of fatal car accidents among youth, which is just five per cent less than impaired driving. In 2010 alone, 104 fatalities in B.C. were linked to distracted driving as a contributing factor.

The change in policy follows news of a B.C. woman losing her license indefinitely after receiving 14 distracted driving citations last month.

With summer around the corner and more young drivers spending more time behind the wheel, the changes couldn’t come at a better time.

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