Distracted driving penalties in Alberta have risen in 2016. Last May, the fine for distracted driving was increased from $172 to $287, making it the most expensive fine in Western Canada. Although the change was substantial, lawmakers did not find it had much of an effect on the number of distracted driving occurrences. The average number of tickets issued per month is still around 600.
Starting on January 1st of this year (the first fine was issued a mere 35 minutes after it came into existence), drivers who are charged with distracted driving also receive 3 demerit points on their license. Fully licensed drivers are suspended when they receive 15 demerit points or more.
It’s important to take note of what constitutes distracted driving:
- Using hand-held cell phones
- Texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at a red light)
- Using electronic devices like laptops, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays, and programming portable audio players (ex. MP3 players).
- Entering information on GPS units
- Reading printed material in the vehicle
- Writing, printing, or sketching
- Personal grooming (brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails, or shaving).
There are simple ways to avoid each of these examples that are worth taking into consideration. The following suggestions will help prevent drivers from losing $287, obtaining demerit points, and, most importantly, being absolute menaces on the road.
- Use a hands-free cell phone. Better yet, either get your passenger to answer your phone calls and texts for you, or just wait until you have arrived at your destination to check your phone. You can even turn it off and throw it in the trunk! If you can’t hear it or see it, you won’t be tempted to answer it.
- If you must answer your text message or a phone call, make sure to pull over first. This is worth it even if you have to call the person back. “Sorry I missed your call, I was driving,” is a very understandable explanation. It will make you and everyone in the near vicinity safer, and as a bonus, it demonstrates your maturity to whomever you’re talking to.
- If you use a GPS, program it before you leave your driveway. If it leads you into the middle of nowhere and you are upset with it, then pull over and reprogram it, rather than attempting to do this en route. It will be more efficient and far less dangerous.
- If you’re driving and find yourself bored without a movie to watch or video game to play, fight any sudden urges to read a novel, jot down a poem, or sketch a quick drawing while driving, or pull over to finish your masterpiece.
- If you ran out of the house looking terribly disheveled, wait until you arrive at your destination to fix your hair or check your teeth. The building you are heading to most likely has a bathroom, which contains better mirrors than the rearview mirror, and more room than a car seat.