VANCOUVER -- The province announced on Wednesday that some drivers with unpaid COVID-19 fines may not be able to renew their licences if they have outstanding tickets.

Under the proposed legislation, people with outstanding fines would be notified by ICBC before their driver’s licence or vehicle licence comes up for renewal.

“It is not a measure to deny people their licences,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “It is a debt collection tool."

Nearly 2,000 COVID-19 related tickets have been issued in the province since the first fines were imposed in August 2020.

The ministry said as of May 8, 1,679 violation tickets, totalling nearly $1.18 million, have been processed by ICBC.

And while the government has directed ICBC to send the fines to collections after 30 days, of that total dollar figure, only 14 per cent has been paid.

“It’s time people take their ticket seriously,” Farnworth said.

If passed, the changes to the Motor Vehicle Act would come into force on July 1 and be applied retroactively to all fines issued under B.C.’s Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 Related Measures Act.

According to the ministry, drivers would be able to request that courts lower the fines if they lack the means to pay, and repayment arrangements can be requested with ICBC “depending on financial and hardship needs.”

Decisions related to what’s called a “refuse to issue” licences could also be appealed to the superintendent of motor vehicles on ground that include hardship, the news release said.

Current COVID-19 fines in B.C. range from $230 for individuals who refuse to comply with public health orders, to $2,300 for business owners or event organizers who break rules related to gatherings.

In addition, police handed out the first $575 ticket for non-essential travel to a North Vancouver resident stopped on May 1 on southern Vancouver Island.

Farnworth also added Wednesday that stepped-up enforcement and threat of fines has had its intended effect: a significant reduction in traffic on roadways leading from the Lower Mainland to the B.C. interior.

“What’s become clear is that British Columbians have gotten they message and they are doing the right thing,” he said.