Penalties for distracted driving have risen as handheld device use has become a bigger problem. (Black Press files)

No electronic devices for new drivers

No GPS or music through phone for learners, novice drivers

September was distracted driving month, and among the messages police and ICBC hammered home was new drivers are not allowed to use any electronic devices while driving.

“They are not allowed to use any electronic devices while in the car,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Brenda Gresiuk.

That means, she added, new drivers are not allowed to use a GPS to navigate, and they cannot even connect a phone or handheld device to their vehicle’s audio system to play music.

According to ICBC, drivers with a Learner’s (L) or Novice (N) licence aren’t allowed to use any electronic device behind the wheel, for any purpose, even in hands-free mode.

“You can’t be looking at that screen, or activating any of the functions of that phone,” added Gresiuk.

“Those are really good conversations to have with your kids, because there are big consequences.”

The entire month of September was dedicated to the the RCMP’s Distracted Driving and Occupant Restraint Campaign. Police and ICBC told the public to “take a break” from their phones, noting there are 960 crashes every day in B.C., and many are caused by distracted driving.

Police advise new drivers to turn off all electronic devices, including all hands-free options. Failure to do so could result in a $368 fine, plus four driver penalty points on their licence.

Any driver with more than three points on their driving record during a 12-month assessment period will have to pay a driver penalty point premium, so this offence means paying these premiums will bring an automatic $210 charge.

Under the graduated licensing system in B.C, drivers are typically designated as learners for at least one year, and novice drivers for two more.

During this time they are restricted in the number of passengers they can have, in their alcohol consumption while driving.

“It’s quite a long time to be in the graduated licensing program,” said Gresiuk. “And you’re supposed to know all the rules of the road.”

For drivers who have their full licence, other messaging that came out during the September campaign included a reminder that drivers are not allowed to use their cell phones at a red light – the law still applies.

Hands-free means a Bluetooth or speakerphone that can be operated with one touch, or by using voice commands.

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