rcmp logoby EVAN MATTHEWS

In case you haven’t heard already, the B.C. government is giving a less than friendly reminder to drivers: put down your cell phones.

As of June 1, people caught distracted driving will face steeper fines, more penalty points and earlier government intervention for repeat offenders.

“Distracted driving was responsible for… hundreds of injuries last year,” said Valemount MLA, Shirley Bond, in a press release.

“The changes to penalties will send the strong message that all of us need to drive responsibly… the deaths and injuries were preventable,” she said.

Once the changes to distracted driving laws take effect, each offence will have a base fine of $368, and a minimum of $543 in financial penalties.

That number jumps to a minimum of $888 in financial penalties if an offender is charged with a second offence in a 12-month span. The driving record of repeat offenders go under automatic review, and could lead to license suspension.

Each offence will also cost four penalty points to the offender’s driving record.

“Distracted driving is avoidable,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Prince George-Mackenzie MLA.

“We’re implementing these penalties because we want to eliminate distracted driving. If you’re operating a vehicle, drop your devices and drive,” he said.

Once the new rules take effect, a distracted driving charge will be a high-risk driving offence, putting it on par with excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention.

According to the B.C. government, 66 people were killed in 2014 as a result of distracted driving, while another 630 were left seriously injured.