By MorinvilleNews.com Staff
Edmonton – It’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road Sept. 1, the day Alberta’s new distracted driving law comes into full effect. Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from talking, texting, e-mailing or web surfing on a hand held cell phone while driving. Other prohibited activities under the law include using hand-held radio communication and other electronic devices, reading, writing or engaging in personal grooming while behind the wheel.
“Alberta’s new distracted driving law is a good addition to our overall strategy to keep Albertans safer while on the road,” said Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette in a release Thursday. “We want all drivers to practice safe driving habits to ensure we all return home safely at the end of each day.”
While the law is designed to focus on cell phone usage, it does cover other areas of vehicular distraction. Although pets may still ride in vehicles where it is not prohibited by municipal bylaw, a driver could be fined under the new law if too involved with their pet. In all cases, the distracted driving law is open to the discretion of police. For example, a person using a napkin while driving is unlikely to receive a fine while someone combing their hair is almost certain to. Having a coffee or eating a snack is permitted but trying to consume an entire meal is likely to result in being pulled over.
There are some exceptions to the new law. Drivers would be permitted to use a handheld device to contact emergency services, and divers needing to keep in contact with their employers because it is necessary in the performance of their duties may use hand-held citizen’s band or two-way radios. Additionally, drivers escorting oversized vehicles may also use CB or two-way radios.
But for everyone else, its hands free or pull over. But those thinking they can simply pull over to the side of the highway to take or make a call could be in for a surprise. Vehicles are not permitted to park on the shoulder of a provincial highway outside an urban area except in the case of an emergency. Drivers needing to make a call are to do so in a rest area or side road.
The fine for distracted driving will be $172 with no demerit points; however, drivers could face additional charges should they commit other traffic violations, including running a red light or making an improper lane change, while driving distracted. Distracted drivers could also be charged under the province’s existing driving without due care and attention law, an offence that carries a $402 fine and six demerit points.
Alberta’s distracted driving law will be promoted through signs posted at major entrances to the province and along major provincial highways at exits from municipalities and at other high traffic volume locations. There are plans to place a sign in Morinville.