Traffic Safety in Alberta

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious and escalating problem. It can occur any time a driver's attention has been diverted to another task besides the operation of the vehicle. When a driver's attention is drawn away from the road and the surrounding environment, the result could be a delayed reaction to a hazard, or possibly a failure to detect it at all. For some, driving has become routine; as a result they utilize this time to multi task. Humans are only physically capable of focusing their attention on one task at a time. This division of attention is dangerous and puts the driver at a greater risk for a collision.

Some examples of driver distractions include the use of cell phones, eating, drinking, adjusting the radio/GPS or changing a CD, conversing with a passenger, dealing with children or pets, personal grooming, focusing on items outside the vehicle such as billboards, smoking or simply thinking about other things besides driving.

There are four main types of distraction:

  • Visual - taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive - taking your mind off what you are doing
  • Auditory - hearing something not related to driving

Consider these facts:

  • It is estimated that 20-30% of vehicle accidents are a result of driver distraction.
  • For every two seconds of inattention, a vehicle can travel a distance of 30 meters at a speed of 50 km/hr.
  • Statistics indicate the chance of your crash doubles when a driver takes his eyes of the road for more than two seconds.
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

Young Drivers

The leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds is vehicle collisions. More crashes occur when passengers, usually other teens, are in the vehicle with a teen operating the vehicle; two out of three passengers die as a result. Distracted driving activities in combination with a teenager's lack of driving experience and risk-taking behavior put this age group at a higher risk for collisions. Many teenagers do not realize the connection between these factors and the statistics.

Strategies to manage driving distractions:

  • Finish your personal grooming before you get behind the wheel.
  • Plan your route (review maps and directions) before you leave home.
  • Turn your cellular phone or hand held device off while driving.
  • Before you begin to drive, adjust items such as your vehicle's climate control, radio, GPS and CD player.
  • Use your cell phone only when parked, otherwise have a passenger take the call or let the caller go to voice mail.
  • Take a break when hungry or thirsty.
  • Avoid intense conversations.
  • Allow plenty of time for travel.
  • Do not drive while fatigued or feeling emotional.

Distracted Driving Law

Effective January 1, 2016 the penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is a $287 fine and three demerit points.

This legislation applies to all motor vehicles as defined by the Traffic Safety Act. It restricts drivers from:

  • using hand-held cell phones
  • texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at red lights)
  • using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players)
  • entering information on GPS units
  • reading printed materials in the vehicle
  • writing, printing or sketching
  • personal grooming (brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails or shaving).

Safe Roads is an excellent resource to learn more about the many aspects regarding traffic safety.