Alberta proposes distracted driving law

  • Apr. 20, 2010 10:00 a.m.

By Jasmine Franklin

Alberta drivers may be banned from using cellphones, laptops, reading or putting on makeup while driving after proposed legislation was brought into the spotlight last week.

The Alberta government introduced the legislation as the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act, 2010, or Bill 16, into the legislature April 14 in attempt to keep drivers focused solely on the road.

“This legislation is practical, effective and enforceable approach to the issue of distracted driving,” said Luke Ouellette, minister of transportation. “We are sending a strong safety message to all Albertans: when you’re in your vehicle, your focus must be on driving.”

The bill bans the use of hand-held cellphones, entertainment devices as well as texting, reading, writing, and personal grooming such as fixing hair or make-up while driving. While DVD players are permitted in the vehicle, they must be set somewhere not within the driver’s sight.

The legislation says drivers are restricted from holding any electronic devices including IPods or GPS navigation systems. The systems must be set up in advance to hitting the road.

The bill suggests a fine of $172 with no demerit points. A distracted driver could face additional charges if they commit other violations such as an improper lane change. The bill also complements the current “driving without due care and attention” law that can see fines of $402 and six demerit points.

“I think this is excellent. Too many people are trying to multi-task while driving,” said Ponoka RCMP Sgt. Gelnn DeMaere. “Attention should be on the driving not talking on the phone or texting, especially when you’re driving 120 km/hr on the highway. You’re dealing with circumstances that can change in a fraction of a second — if an individual is distracted there is no chance of a proper reaction to anything.”

“Travel lanes are not much wider than the standard vehicle — it doesn’t take much to swerve into that other lane.”

DeMaere said his detachment receives continuous complaints of people on the highway’s reading or watching a movie while driving.

Eagle Taxi driver Joyce Liddle said the legislation is a great idea but it will affect cab drivers.

“It will affect us because hands-free devices will have to be installed into taxis,” Liddle said. “The only time I use my phone while driving is when answering a call for the taxi but other than that, I think it’s a great idea.”

The bill does allow hands-free phones and the use of cellphones in the event of an emergency. This bill would not affect duties of emergency services including law enforcement, fire and medical services.

The legislation will be debated in the legislature this fall.

To view all of Bill 16 and provide comments visit www.transportation.alberta.ca

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