Starting 1 June 2016, offenders will be hit with a base $368 fine, more than double from the previous $167 ticket, which was one of the lowest in Canada.
Distracted drivers will also be rewarded with four penalty points, which is all it takes to incur an additional $175 insurance premium.
The penalties only get worse for repeat offenders. Anyone caught driving distracted a second time within 12 months will face $888 in financial penalties, then $1,600 for a third.
Distracted driving, which encompasses much more than just texting or talking on a cell phone, is also being changed to a high-risk driving offence, like excessive speeding. That means drivers in the graduated licensing program or repeat offenders – such as the Richmond woman who racked up 14 tickets for distraction in just five years – can be taken off the road more easily.
According to the Insurance Corporation of B.C., distraction now kills and injures more people annually than impaired driving.
In 2014, the bad habit was blamed for 630 serious injuries and 66 deaths.