February marked Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but really it’s a year long reminder of the importance of keeping your eyes on the road.
As part of the campaign last month, Red Deer RCMP and Community Peace Officers (CPOs) focused on distracted drivers in a targeted traffic campaign. In the space of an hour on Feb. 18th, Red Deer RCMP Traffic members and CPOs checked vehicles at roving locations through the City and issued two distracted driving tickets, two tickets for drivers not having registration and one ticket for an expired driver’s license. As well, one warrant was executed.
During this time frame, one distracted driving investigation turned into an impaired driving investigation, and RCMP arrested a 29-year-old woman.
This was undertaken as part of a provincial campaign entitled ‘Crotches Kill’ which focuses on the danger to other drivers, passengers and pedestrians when drivers take their focus away from the road.
Examples of distracted driving include using hand-held phones, texting, emailing, reading, writing, grooming and typing in GPS co-ordinates while behind the wheel.
The penalties are also stiff, on Jan. 1st, the penalty for drivers caught with distracted driving was changed to a $287 fine plus three demerit points.
But the message continues to fall on deaf ears. Who hasn’t sat behind a driver at a red light whose head appears down and they are clearly not paying attention and start moving with the traffic? Blasting one’s horn offers a moment of satisfaction of ‘catching’ that person in the act. But it’s clearly not a long-term solution.
It’s surprising that people can’t resist the temptation of their phones, even on a short drive within the City. It continues to get worse and become more of an obsession.
According to the Alberta Motor Association’s web site cell phones are one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cell phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers. Driver distraction is a factor in about four million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. As well, children are four times more distracting than adults as passengers, and infants are eight times more distracting than adults as passengers and international research shows that 20% to 30% of all collisions involve driver distraction.
The AMA web site also states that since Alberta began levying fines on distracted drivers on Sept. 1st, 2011, close to 80,000 drivers have been convicted. From April 2014 to March 2015, more than 27,000 drivers were caught and charged with distracted driving. Of those caught and charged, the greatest offenders were drivers aged 35 to 44.
“Distracted driving reduces your awareness of what’s happening on the road and limits your ability to make the split-second decisions that will avoid collisions,” said Sgt. Al Nickolson of the Red Deer RCMP. “It only takes a second for a collision to occur, and every collision has the potential to be deadly.”
RCMP charge drivers for these distracted behaviours: using handheld electronic devices including cell phones; texting; writing or sketching; reading printed materials; entering information on GPS devices; personal grooming; and allowing a person, animal, or thing to impede their safe operation of the vehicle, which includes rowdy passengers, dogs on laps, and large items hanging from the rearview mirror. In a recent incident, a Red Deer driver was charged for flossing their teeth while driving.
Red Deer RCMP will continue to set up campaigns around the city targeting drivers who choose to make dangerous driving decisions, and urge drivers to pledge to leave their phones alone. Police further encourage drivers to take the pledge on their own social media accounts by using the hashtag #CrotchesKill and to challenge others in the community to do the same.