2 - PRAIRIE POST - Friday,April 23, 2010
Alberta introduces distracted driver legislation
BY ROSE SANCHEZ
Individuals involved with safety on Alberta highways
are pleased to see the government introduce legislation encompassing distracted driving with a broader focus than just cell phone use behind the wheel.
Last week, the government introduced Bill 16, the
Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act. It proposed a ban on the use of hand-held cell cell phones while driving and activities such as texting, reading, writing, personal grooming, and puts restrictions on using other electronic devices while behind the wheel. “I’m glad (the) Alberta (government) has taken the
(direction) it has and they’re not rushing into the legislation which could have been ineffective if written up wrong,” says Randy Youngman, regional traffic safety co-ordinator for southeast Alberta. The Bill was introduced in the Legislature, but that doesn’t mean it’s law yet. Feedback will be sought through the next few months and the legislation debated by politicians in the fall. Youngman says in his career as a police officer he saw numerous incidents of drivers focusing their attention on other areas than the road. He even saw one person changing their clothes while driving. “I really think making it more (an) all encompassing law is going to make it a more effective law,” he adds. The Bill proposes a fine of $172 with no demerit
(government) has taken the (direction) it has and
they’re not rushing into the legislation which could have been ineffective if written up wrong ... I really think making it more (an) all encompassing law is going to make it a more effective law.
— Randy Youngman,
regional traffic safety co-ordinator, S.E.Alberta.
There’s a public sentiment around distracted driving that I have not seen for years. There’s a lack of tolerance for distracted driving.
— Don Szarko, spokesperson for the Alberta Motor Association
points. A distracted driver could face additional charges if they commit other violations such as running a red light or making an improper lane change. Youngman says the fine is enough money to get people’s attention, without it being too much of a burden. Law enforcement personnel can charge people currently under the driving without due care and attention legislation, but many officers are reluctant to do so because it carries a hefty fine of $402 and six demerit points.
He believes the majority of the public will be onside with the new legislation because when he is travelling to trade shows and events, the number one question people ask him about is distracted driving and when something will be done to curb it. Officials with the Alberta Motor Association (AMA)
I’m glad (the) Alberta
are also hearing from the public concerns about distracted drivers. In a recent survey they conducted, nine out of 10 people supported moving ahead with legislation. “There’s a public sentiment around distracted driving that I have not seen for years,” says Don Szarko, spokesperson for the AMA. “There’s a lack of tolerance for distracted driving.”
He adds the legislation isn’t cast in stone, and AMA
officials will provide feedback to the government about the proposed bill.
Szarko is also glad to see the Province put forward legislation that focuses on distracted driving in general and not just banning cell phone use.
“Alberta will be unique to the provinces because this will deal with more than just hand-held cell phones,” he adds. Last year, the Saskatchewan government approved banning the use of cell phones behind the wheel and that legislation came into effect Jan. 1, 2010. There was a 60-day grace period where officers handed out warnings, before the actual fines of $280. “Driver distraction is a huge factor in deaths and serious collisions,” says Staff Sgt. Ian Mitchell, with the Saskatchewan RCMP Traffic Division. Banning drivers from using cell phones is a start, but Mitchell says if police had their way, any distractions behind the wheel would be banned — even drinking coffee or smoking. “Lots of crashes are caused by dropped cigarettes,” he adds. “Cell phones are one step ... we’ll move on from there depending on what the data tells us.” At the same time police recognize every distraction can’t be banned. That’s where the ability to charge people under the law of driving with undue care and attention comes into play. As for the Alberta legislation, Szarko says the public feedback will be important because the legislation has to be practical and reasonable in terms of enforcement. “This has to have the support of the police ... I think it is practical and enforceable,” he adds. “We’ve talked to police and indications are they are supporting this.” Government officials hope they have found the right
approach to dealing with distracted driving. “We are sending a strong safety message to all
Albertans: ‘when you’re in your vehicle, your focus must be on driving’,” said Luke Ouellette, minister of transportation, in a news release. Bill 16 would allow the use of hands-free phones. Also, radio communications such as CB radios would be allowed for commercial purposes and search and rescue services. Drivers could use hand-held devices to contact emergency services and this legislation would not affect the official duties of emergency service personnel including enforcement, fire and medical services. Visit www.transportation.alberta.ca for more information about Bill 16.
Even if a driver is reading something worthwhile like a Randy Youngman column, holding onto a beverage, a cigarette and a cell phone is dangerous.
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28