by Morinville News Staff

Updating your Facebook status behind the wheel could net you three demerits in addition to the current $287 fine after Jan. 1.

The province announced the increase in penalty Dec. 10, citing research they say suggests driver distractions contribute to 20 to 30 per cent of all collisions. Further, distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers.

Minister of Transportation Brian Mason said there were 87,000 distracted driving convictions from September 2011 to March of 2015.

The government says male drivers accounted for two-thirds of all convictions between 2014 and 2015 with male drivers aged 22 to 34 years having the highest convictions.

“Despite our best efforts, distracted driving remains a real danger, with convictions increasing year over year,” Mason said in a release. “Given these numbers, we are following through on Albertans’ wishes for stronger penalties for distracted driving.”

Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, Commanding Officer of the Alberta RCMP, was pleased with the government news.

“On behalf of all police and emergency services in Alberta – don’t drive while distracted,” she cautioned. “Distracted driving can be deadly, and although police will be enforcing distracted driving laws, all drivers can make Alberta’s roads safer.”

The new rules take effect Jan. 1; however, any driver charged with distracted driving before that date will not be assigned demerit points, even if the $287 fine is paid in the new year.

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