REGINA -- The fines for driving distracted in the province of Saskatchewan will more than double on Saturday.

The increase comes into effect on Feb. 1, and distracted driving will be the focus of SGI's traffic safety spotlight next month.

“Distracted driving is a serious safety concern in our province, and on roads all over the country,” Joe Hargave, Minister Responsible for SGI, said in a news release. “We hope by introducing tougher penalties – and especially strong penalties for repeat offenders – it will mean fewer people driving distracted and fewer tickets issued.”

Starting Saturday, a first offence for distracted driving will cost $580 and four demerits. A second offence will come with a $1,400 ticket, another four demerits and a seven-day vehicle impoundment. A third ticket in the same year will cost $2,100, plus another four demerits and a seven-day seizure.

SGI says the demerits could cost drivers in insurance, along with additional financial penalties.

Handheld phone use is still prohibited for all drivers. Experienced drivers can use hands-free functions on a mounted device through voice or one-touch commands.

Police can also issue a ticket to a driver whose behaviour is taking their attention away from the road.

In 2018, SGI says distraction or inattention factored into more than 6,000 crashes. There were 774 injuries and 22 deaths. Last year, SGI says there were three monthly records set for distracted driving tickets issued in Saskatchewan.