**Updated** Sweeping new law boosts protection for Nova Scotia cyclists, pedestrians

**Updated at 3:52 p.m.**

A sweeping new law governing Nova Scotia's roads and highways would for the first time include pedestrians, cyclists and people who work along roadways as "vulnerable road users," and double fines for accidents that seriously injure or kill them.

Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines says the intent of the change in the new Traffic Safety Act is to provide better protection and to signal that roadways are used by more that just motorized vehicles.

In addition to the increased fines, drivers convicted of injuring someone deemed vulnerable would be also be subject to an automatic suspension of up to six months.

Hines says the proposed replacement for the Motor Vehicle Act would also clamp down on the use of devices that lead to distracted driving.

The current law only covers texting while driving and the changes would ensure any device, including cellphones and global positioning systems, would only be used hands-free, with fines increased from $295 to $410.

In anticipation of the increased use of autonomous vehicles in coming years, the province has included a provision that drivers must maintain control of the vehicles at all times, meaning they must be in the driver's seat and ready to take the wheel should something go wrong.