Twenty-eight distracted driving tickets issued in six hours in Nanoose Bay

June 1 was the first day of the new, higher distracted driving fines

Talk is no longer cheap, Vancouver Island motorists learned Wednesday on the first day of the newly increased fines for distracted driving penalties.

In a six-hour period June 1, Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services and the Oceanside RCMP issued 28 tickets for using an electronic device while driving. The infractions all occurred at a police enforcement checkpoint on Highway 19 at Morello Road in Nanoose Bay between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., said Cpl. Mike Elston of Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services.

Each infraction now carries a $368 fine and four licence demerit points.

“Drivers need to understand that simply holding the device is enough to be fined,” said Elston.

“Numerous drivers stated that they were not using the device but were simply holding it. Drivers are reminded that the device, if used, must be done so in a manner that is hands free.”

Distracted driving contributed to the deaths of 66 people on B.C. roads in 2014, and seriously injured 630 more people, according to statistics provided by the Province of B.C.

RCMP admitted to some surprise at how many tickets were issued in the wake of extensive media coverage alerting drivers to the increased fines for — and increased emphasis on enforcement of — distracted driving.

“I find it concerning that despite a media blitz that has spanned for the past two weeks, drivers still chose to ignore the facts and the fines and drive while distracted,” Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said.

“There is no message or conversation that is so important, you need to endanger yourself or others.”

—NEWS Staff/Oceanside RCMP news release