As of January 1, 2016, Alberta is upping the ante on the penalty for distracted driving. For infractions incurred during 2015, the $287.00 fine remains the only penalty in effect, even if the fine is paid following a conviction finalized in 2016. For citations given in the new year, the fine remains $287.00 upon conviction, but you will also be assigned three demerit points against your licence. An accumulation of demerits within a specified period will eventually, or immediately, results in a suspension of your licence.
Demerits can negatively influence how much you will pay for auto insurance in Alberta. One of the best ways to keep your auto insurance low is to always practise safe driving habits. Eliminating driver distractions is one safe driving factor that is completely within your control.
Alberta’s Distracted Driving Law
The change in the province’s distracted driving law applies to all motor vehicles subject to the Traffic Safety Act. Examples of prohibited distracting activities on all publicly accessible roads in Alberta include, but are not limited to:
- Operating a mobile phone
- Texting or mailing on a device, even when stopped while in traffic
- Using or viewing other electronic devices, such as video players, gaming consoles and the like
- Manually inputting GPS coordinates or addresses into navigation devices
- Reading, writing, drawing, etc.
- Personal grooming such as doing one’s hair, applying make up, brushing and/or flossing teeth, shaving and other activities<
Certain activities within one’s vehicle are not specifically restricted by the legislation, such as:
- Using a mobile phone in a “hands free” manner, or using it to call 911
- Drinking non-alcoholic beverages
- Eating or smoking<
- Conversing with other occupants
- Using a CB radio hand held microphone for commercial purposes only
- Briefly interacting with a vehicle’s built in onboard navigation system, information display, or gauges
It is up to the law enforcement official and their observations to determine if what you were doing while driving was a “distraction.” In fact, the law allows for a citation to be issued even if there is no objective evidence of driver impairment or non-performance, making this section of the Traffic Safety Act easy to enforce and hard to defend against. Under the law, a driver who commits a moving violation while distracted, could receive two tickets — one for the presumed distracted driving and another for the actual moving violation.
Even public safety workers, such as fire and police responders, are subject to this law unless they are acting within the scope of their employment at the time.
Of special concern is what to do with pets, primarily dogs, which tend to ride in the passenger area of the vehicle. Under the Traffic Safety Act unsecured pets present two possibilities for being pulled over by the authorities: 1) If the pet is unsecured in the front seat and is deemed to be distracting the driver from properly employing the vehicular controls and; 2) the pet has free run of the passenger compartment and is deemed to be blocking the vision of the driver.
It would seem that not only is a pet restraint a good preventative measure against injury to yourself or the pet in the event of a collision, it is a great hedge of being summarily pulled over.