Statistics show Red Deer motorists still driving distracted

Motorists are not hanging up the phone on distracted driving.

An Alberta report says there is no evidence to suggest that legislation in other provinces and states banning the use of cellphones while driving has reduced the number of collisions.

Motorists are not hanging up the phone on distracted driving.

Red Deer City RCMP have written an average of 149 tickets a month for distracted driving since the new legislation was implemented nearly a year ago.

Sgt. Bob Bell of the Red Deer City RCMP said by far talking on cellphones, followed by texting, is the largest distraction.

Bell said the drivers aren’t trying to hide it either. He said they are clearly holding their phones in hand while they navigate city streets.

And the majority of the collisions are a result of distracted driving. He said the drivers are chatting and texting on mobile phones, looking around at the drivers in the next lane and on the sidewalks, or trying to find an address.

“All those things distract you from what you should be paying attention to,” said Bell. “A lot of it is rear-end collisions. People are distracted and all of a sudden they look up and the vehicle in front of them has stopped.”

In September 2011, the province introduced the law that forbids any kind of distracted behaviour behind the wheel, like using hand-held devices, grooming, entering information on a GPS device or reading. Drivers who violate the law face a $172 ticket.

Police wrote 65 tickets in the first month and 217 tickets the next month under the new law. In March, 220 tickets were issued compared to 76 tickets written in July.

Bell said writing tickets for distracted driving is much like arresting impaired drivers at CheckStops.

“It doesn’t really tell you how big of a problem it is,” said Bell. “Because if we do more enforcement, we would arrest more impaired drivers just like distracted driving — if we did more enforcement, we would ticket more drivers.”

Bell said police often nab the gabby drivers while doing photo radar. One officer acts as a spotter to radio ahead to other officers on the road.

However, Bell thinks the new law is slowly having an impact, but it may take time for people to heed the message.

“Between pedestrians and cyclists and other users of the road, you’ve got to really pay attention,” said Bell. “You can’t be getting something out of your purse or changing the radio station. You’ve got to really pay attention.”

In September, Red Deer police will step up efforts to crack down on distracted driving, while doing seat belt checks at the same time. They will also target speedsters in school zones and enforce the second phase of Alberta’s new impaired driving legislation.

Month by month, here are the total tickets written in Red Deer under the new distracted driving law from September 2011 to July 2012:

• September 2011 — 65

• October 2011 — 217

• November 2011 — 173

• December 2011 — 181

• January 2012 — 163

• February 2012 — 216

• March 2012 — 220

• April 2012 — 116

• May 2012 — 125

• June 2012 — 88

• July 2012 — 76

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