Some Drivers Continue to Ignore Distracted Driving Law.

Tomb of Camões in the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém, Lisbon. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Tomb of Camões in the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém, Lisbon. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

In September, it will be four years since the distracted driving became a ticketable offence. But some drivers continue to ignore the law.

As of May 1 2015 the fine for breaking the distracted driving law is $287. If a driver is exhibiting more risky behaviour, they can be charged with driving carelessly and receive a fine of $402 and six demerit points.

Is that going to prevent people talking on the phone, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette, sometimes all at the same time?

From my casual observation, I would say no because it is hard to enforce the law.

My impression is there are too many other things going on in the city to keep the law enforcement people busy. Distracted driving offence may not be high on the priority list. I may be wrong on this. It would be nice to see some statistics.

As we know, while driving, it is illegal to:

  1. Use a hand-held phone while talking, texting and/or e-mailing
  2. Operate electronic devices like video players and laptops
  3. Manually program GPS units or portable audio players
  4. Read or write
  5. Engage in personal grooming

Drivers are allowed to use hands-free mobile devices that are activated by a single touch or are voice activated, eat a snack, or drink a beverage while driving.

The law also says that members of the public can report a distracted driver to their local community station. The complainant must be able to identify the driver, vehicle and be willing to testify as a witness in court. I wonder how many people would have time to do that.

It is important to know there are some exceptions to this law:

  1. Emergency personnel such as fire rescue, EMS and police are exempt from using hand-held radio communications and electronic devices while performing their duties.
  2. Calling 911 in an emergency, or to report an impaired driver as part of the Curb the Danger program, is permitted while driving under the distracted driving law.

According CAA/AAA most drivers are distracted by outside object/person/event (29.9 per cent), adjusting radio/CD (11.4 per cent), other vehicle occupants (10.9 per cent), and something moving in the car (4.3 per cent). Other distractions are using another object/device, adjusting car’s climate controls, eating/drinking and using cell phones.

Statistics show that drivers engaged in text messaging on cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Driver distraction is a factor in about four million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year.

According to Alberta Transportation, international research shows that 20 to 30 per cent of all collisions involve driver distraction.

These indeed are grim statistics. There is more information on this subject on the internet and Alberta Government website. The question remains – is the law meant to be self-regulated or do we have enough manpower to enforce it? Have we made a dent in the tragic consequences of distracted driving?

We are into a holiday season and the weather is conducive and enticing to people who want to speed and break the law. Can we prevent that?

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