The Ontario Provincial Police is warning drivers to put their phones away as officers focus on a Distracted Driving Campaign during March Break.

Motorists caught using their cell phones may be surprised to learn about the tougher penalties which took effect on January 1, 2019.

A fine has now jumped to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. The penalties increase with subsequent offences. For novice drivers in the graduated licencing system, there is no fine or additional demerit points but, longer licence suspensions now apply.

"Among the most dangerous drivers are those who continue to ignore the facts and convince themselves that using a cell phone while driving is not dangerous and forms part of today's driving culture,” says Gary Courture, interim commissioner of the OPP, in a news release.

According to the OPP, the deaths of 55 people and more than 9,115 collisions have been linked to an inattentive driver on roads patrolled by provincial police in 2018.

"When you are driving, safety has to be your first priority. Distracted driving is a real danger to you, your passengers and others on the road. No call or text is ever worth the risk,” says Jeff Yurek, minister of transportation.

Last year, OPP laid 13,529 distracted driving charges.