In 2016, Alberta updated Bill 204, The Traffic Safety Amendment Act, otherwise known as the Distracted Driving Demerit Act. Stiffer penalties were put in place for drivers caught texting or engaging in other distracting, unsafe behaviour. Fines were increased from $172 to $287 and 3 demerit points would now accompany a distracted driving ticket. Many people have asked our brokers at Bow Valley if their car insurance will go up if they are caught texting. In the article below, we will explain what you need to know.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is more than just texting behind the wheel – it can involve operating other equipment such as a GPS or DVD player, personal grooming or even eating and drinking. Distracted driving, however, is dangerous and deadly. In fact, it is listed as the top cause of motor vehicle accidents in the province of Alberta.
The Traffic Safety Act of Alberta defines distracted driving as:
- Using hand-held cellular phones
- Emailing or texting (even when stopped at a red light)
- Reading while driving
- Writing or drawing
- Entering information on a GPS device
- Personal grooming (shaving, applying makeup, brushing teeth, drying hair)
- Using electronic devices such as laptops, cameras, video displays and audio players
Canadian Laws and How They Deal with Distracted Driving
Distracted driving laws vary from province to province, however, in Alberta the penalty is a $287 fine and 3 demerit points. The tickets are issued to the driver of the vehicle and not the registered owner. If someone receives too many demerit points over a period of time, their license can be suspended. Individuals under the Graduated Driving License programs cannot receive more than 8 demerit points and for fully licensed drivers, 15 points.
Distracted driving can also be combined with another driving infraction. For example, if a driver committed a moving violation while being distracted, they can be ticketed for both the moving violation and distracted driving.
Will My Insurance Rate Increase?
If you have received a distracted driving ticket, be prepared for your insurance rate to rise. A single ticket is all it takes to end your clean driving record, which may be reducing your premiums by 5-10% annually. If you have received a double ticket, like in the example above, your insurance premiums could increase depending on your the total number of points and types of traffic infractions shown on your driving record.
What If I’m Caught Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
If you are caught not wearing a seatbelt, the fine is $155 plus you can earn demerit points. If you were also stopped for distracted driving and were not wearing a seatbelt, this would be a double ticket scenario. As far as your insurance goes, every company and policy has different guidelines for how they handle demerit points or traffic violations for their clients. Often, an insurance company will not base their premium on the number of convictions or demerit points earned but instead the severity of the conviction. Either way, demerit points almost always lead to some percentage of a rate increase.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving
The best way to avoid driving distracted is to plan ahead. Program your GPS route in advance and activate the voice control system so that you can make any necessary changes while en-route. For cell phones, use either voice activated dialing or a Bluetooth headset to keep your hands and focus on the wheel. Avoid changing the radio station while in traffic and also be cautious while eating and drinking so that you do not accidentally take your eyes off the road.
To find the best insurance rate possible, contact our team at Bow Valley Insurance. As trusted insurance professionals, we can help you find discounts for clean driving records and help you obtain the coverage you need if you have been involved in an accident or have received tickets for distracted driving.