Burnaby, British Columbia – The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) is applauding the provincial government for introducing legislation to restrict the use of hand-held cellphones and other portable electronic devices.

The law, which comes into effect on January 1, 2010, requires that drivers not send or read text and/or e-mail messages, and not make or take phone calls, unless using a hands-free device. New and novice drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program may not send or receive any phone calls or text messages, whether hand-held or hands-free.

Hands-free cellphones will need to be built in or securely fixed to the vehicle, and used by pressing a single button, once only, to activate a hands-free device for incoming or outgoing calls.

BCAA is encouraging drivers not to wait for the law, and to adopt safer driving practices now. “You should get in the habit of turning off your cellphone or other hand-held electronic devices before getting in the car, or leaving them in a briefcase or trunk where it is out of reach and won’t tempt you,” said Trace Acres, BCAA Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations. “Then, when you reach your destination, take a minute to check for messages. Also, change your voice message to say you’re currently unavailable or driving, and will return the call when it is safe to do so.”

A new fine of $167 will be levied on February 1, 2010. If drivers are caught texting or e-mailing, they will receive an additional three penalty points. Drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program will also receive the $167 fine and three points for any violation of the legislation.

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