Alberta Integrated Traffic Units focus on young drivers’ safety

Talking on a cell phone, texting or personal grooming are actions that could lead to fatal error in judgment

School may be out for the summer, but road safety is still in.

The RCMP in Alberta remind young drivers travelling on Alberta roads and highways to exercise caution and avoid distractions. The month of July can be a dangerous one for motorists, especially for young drivers who are most involved in fatal collisions during this month.

“The message is simple, distracted driving is extremely dangerous. It puts you and everyone else on the road at greater risk of being involved in a collision,” said Supt. Rick Gardner, Alberta Traffic Sheriffs.

“Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road and off the phones.”

In 2015, young drivers represented 14% of the province’s registered drivers, but made more than 20% of the drivers involved in casualty collisions (Alberta Transportation 2015).

One of the leading factors for the high rate of collisions amongst youth is distracted driving.

Driving distracted can be defined as any activity, event or object that takes a driver’s attention away from the road. Talking on a cell phone, texting, attending to other passengers or pets, or even personal grooming are all actions that could lead to fatal error in judgment and collisions.

On June 10th, Integrated Traffic Units (ITUs) held an Option 4 session to raise awareness of the devastating consequences of distracted driving.

The 21 participants had been previously pulled over for distracted driving.

They had the option of dealing with the ticket in the normal way or by attending an Option 4 session. During this session, participants heard a firsthand account of dangers associated with using a cell phone behind the wheel.

Melody Battle, a former distracted driver, told participants how her decision to send her boss a text message to notify him she was running late resulted in her hitting the back of a road grader at 100 km/h. The collision caused her serious injuries that landed her a nine-month stay in the hospital. Today, she uses her experience to teach other young drivers about the consequences that come with taking your eyes off the road, even for a quick second.

“Distracted driving can be as dangerous as impaired driving. Officers from the ITUs are always watching for distracted drivers and we’ve seen everything from the obvious cell phones, to reading a book, to shaving, to holding a bowl of soup with one hand and eating it with a spoon in the other, all while driving,” said RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull. “Things around you can change in the blink of an eye, please pay attention.”

Police remind teenagers and young adults that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is a serious responsibility.

Everyone has a part to play when it comes to traffic safety and that starts with keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

Following are a few facts for young people to keep in mind from Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation – one in five new drivers is involved in a collision during their first two years of driving; fatal collisions involving a young driver occur most often in September and July (2011-2015); distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers and young male drivers, age 22 to 34 years, have the highest distracted driving conviction rates.

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