The Government of Alberta stated in a press release regarding the new law how research indicates driver distractions contribute to 20 to 30per cent of all collisions and that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers.
“From September 2011 to March of this year, there were more than 87,000 convictions for distracted driving, and despite our best efforts,distracted driving remains a real danger, with convictions increasing year over year,” said Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation. “Given these numbers, we are following through on Albertans’ wishes for stronger penalties for distracted driving.”
Since September 1, 2011, when distracted driving legislation was introduced through March 31, 2015, there have been 87,633 convictions.The trend has been an increased number of convictions, with more than 27,000 between April 2014 and March 31, 2015. Ninety-seven percent of these convictions were for using a hand-held electronic device while driving.
During 2014-15, male drivers accounted for two-thirds of all convictions. Young male drivers, aged 22 to 34 years, had the highest conviction rates. In the Driver Attitude Survey conducted in August 2014, 81 per cent of Alberta drivers believed distracted driving is the leading cause of collisions. Despite this, 53 per cent of Alberta drivers admitted to texting while driving in the previous three months. If you’re travelling 100 km/h, you will travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to send a text message (approximately five seconds).
“On behalf of all police and emergency services in Alberta – don’t drive while distracted. Distracted driving can be deadly, and although police will be enforcing distracted driving laws, all drivers can make Alberta’s roads safer,” said Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, CommandingOfficer of the Alberta RCMP.
Local RCMP say they are happy to see the stricter laws coming into place. Cpl. James Allemekinders of the Sylvan Lake RCMP added he hopes people take the law more seriously now that there are more consequences involved.
“Instead of just financial consequences, now people’s licenses are on the line,” said Allemekinders. “I’m hoping people now look at it and take it more seriously and choose to make the right decision instead of continuing to use their mobile devices while driving.
“I think we can all attest to the fact that it’s something we see happening all the time – it’s out there and it’s happening all the time and we are hoping that with this new consequence that people will start to follow the law more when it comes to distracted driving.”
Any driver charged with distracted driving before January 1, 2016, will not be assigned demerit points, even if the $287 fine is paid in the new year.