Sep 1, 2011

Alberta distracted driving law in effect

Drivers banned from texting, talking on the phone, personal grooming

Drivers in Alberta caught texting, reading or brushing their hair can be fined $172 now that the province’s distracted driving legislation is in effect.

The Alberta government has passed the most comprehensive distracted driving legislation in Canada. Bill 16, the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act, restricts the use of hand-held cellphones and activities including using a hand-held phone, texting, reading, writing and personal grooming, and puts restrictions on using other electronic devices while driving.

“This legislation is a bold approach and goes beyond restricting cellphones and deals with the broader issue of distracted driving,” said Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette, when the legislation was introduced in November 2010. “Our message is clear: Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.”

This legislation permits the use of hands-free phones. Also, radio communication devices such as CB radios are allowed for commercial purposes and search and rescue services. Drivers may use hand-held devices to contact emergency services — like 911 — and this legislation does not affect the official duties of emergency service personnel including law enforcement, fire and medical services.

The proposed fine for the distracted driving offence is $172 with no demerit points. Drivers engaged in any of the identified activities can be charged under this new law. A distracted driver could face additional charges if he commits other violations such as running a red light or making an improper lane change. This legislation complements the current driving without due care and attention law — a serious offence with a fine of $402 and six demerit points.

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