Distracted driving still a big problem, despite new law

Red Deer City RCMP still see distracted driving as a big problem and have handed out more than 500 tickets in the first four months of a new law.

Red Deer City RCMP still see distracted driving as a big problem and have handed out more than 500 tickets in the first four months of a new law.

Sgt. Bob Bell of the city’s traffic enforcement division said the number shows that too many people still don’t pay full attention while driving.

RCMP issued 65 tickets in September, 217 in October, 173 in November and 181 in December under Alberta’s new distracted driving law.

Bell added the totals for January were not calculated yet but he didn’t expect the numbers to be much different from the previous four months.

“It has been one of those things where we are looking for something else like not wearing a seatbelt and we find someone talking on their cellphone,” said Bell. “It is something we have not been focused on. Most of the tickets issued have been when we are doing seatbelt checks.”

But that is all going to change this month.

February is Distracted Driving Month in Alberta and the RCMP are going to be on the lookout for people trying to do something else when they should be focused on driving.

Bell said a majority of the tickets handed out for distracted driving have been for using a cellphone but they have found a few cases where people are driving with their pet on their lap or putting on makeup.

A distracted driving ticket will cost the offender $172 and if they are caught without their seatbelt or committing another offence, there is the possibility of a second ticket.

Bell said getting drivers to focus on the road is a big priority for Red Deer RCMP.

“Red Deer has a big problem with collisions at red lights, including rear-end collisions. We know a lot of those cases involve people not paying attention. We are trying to reduce the number of collisions because it is a major cost to people through insurance and other expenses. We want people to be more aware when they are driving, especially when pulling up to an intersection.”

Bell added the RCMP will be on the lookout for seatbelts in March and that won’t take the heat off distracted drivers.

They are finding that seatbelt violations and distracted driving come hand-in-hand and when they look for one, they usually find the other.

cpapke@bprda.wpengine.com

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