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Too early to tell if distracted driving law has been effective


Advocate staff

The head of Red Deer City RCMP said that it is too early to tell if distracted driving legislation has been effective.

“As police, certainly we will continue to indicate that distracted driving is an issue,” Supt. Warren Dosko said, noting that it is often a “causal factor” in vehicle crashes.

Edmonton Police Service chief Rob Knecht said distracted driving legislation was “a big deal” when first passed, but said police have seen people using their phones again. Knecht said that issuing demerits will further deter this behaviour. Currently, distracted drivers face a $172 fine.

The legislation came into effect on Sept. 1, 2011. It prohibits use of handheld cellphones, texting or emailing, use of portable electronics, inputting information into GPS, reading, writing and personal grooming.

Except for Nunavut, all provinces and territories have some form of distracted driving legislation. Eight of these issue demerit points for infractions.

A proposal to issue demerit points for distracted driving has been sent to Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis for review. Calgary police chief Rick Hanson raised the resolution at the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting in November. It was passed unanimously.

Knecht said the evidence for the proposal was based on feedback and complaints from the public. There has been no official review of the legislation.

Dosko said that Red Deer police are focused on enforcement of the existing law.

When asked about the proposal to issue demerits, he said.

“From a policing perspective, it’s not really our role to talk about legislation.”

While Dosko said he didn’t know if the law had translated into a reduction of incidents, he said it has had a positive impact and opportunity to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.



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