REGINA -- The penalties for distracted driving are getting stronger.

Starting Feb.1, a first offence will cost you nearly $600, not to mention the four demerit points against your licence!

We posted the story on social media and almost immediately were bombarded with “I see police officers with laptops open in their cars” or “I saw an officer on their phone! How come they don’t get fined?”

One of our viewers said he’d heard there was a specialized course that taught officers to drive while distracted and wondered why it wasn’t available to you and I!

Const. Mike “Hawkeye” Seel from the Regina Police Service says the traffic safety act makes police officers exempt from distracted driving laws, as long as it’s for work purposes. That means they can use their cell phones, two-way radios, run red lights, speed, etc, as long as it is for legitimate police business. They can’t flip on their lights, call their buddies and race off to meet up for coffee, despite what you might think.

Officers do get specialized training, too. In police college, cadets are taught to drive while distracted, on a closed course with certified instructors. That’s where they learn to use their cell phones or computers, while driving to respond to a call.

That’s why they have their laptops open and phones available to them… for our safety. Those computers don’t have any games on them, and no access to social media sites, they’re for dispatch to emergency calls and provide details about the call and GPS coordinates.

Why isn’t the aforementioned training available to you and me? We’re not police. Most of us. Seel says the majority of us are picking up our kids, driving to work and it’s just not normally an emergency situation.

So, the next time you pull up next to a police officer, just know, their computer isn’t on solitaire while you wait for the light to turn.