Sounding off on distracted driving

Red Deerians encouraged to drive safe on City streets

Distracted driving is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous driving behaviours.

Research indicates that between 20% and 30% of all collisions are due to distracted driving and distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive ones.

That number is way too high. And why are people not getting the message? Distracted driving laws were introduced in Alberta in 2011 with stiffer penalties being introduced in January 2016. As well, various awareness campaigns have taken place since the law’s inception. No one can claim that they don’t realize that being distracted while driving is dangerous.

But still, time and again, drivers can be seen on their cell phones, eating or drinking and more.

“Just because someone has used a cellphone while driving and never had a problem before doesn’t mean the risks aren’t there. Distracted driving has a devastating effect on families. We are asking everyone to do their part and put the phone away while driving to ensure road safety,” said Insp. Steve Daley, acting OIC Traffic Services with the Alberta RCMP, K Division.

By far the most common form of distracted driving that we see is texting and driving, or someone talking on their cell phone while driving.

Other forms of distracted driving include 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 and personal grooming.

Statistics show the number of distracted driving convictions has continued to rise, with a dramatic increase of convictions in 2012-2013.

Numbers show in 2011-2012 there were 8,345 convictions (from September 2011 and March 2012).

In 2012-2013, there were 25,958 convictions with 25,913 convictions in 2013-2014.

In 2015-2016, Alberta saw another 27,281 distracted driving convictions.

The number again jumped in 2014-2015 with 27,417 distracted driving convictions and in 2015 – 2016 the province saw another 27,281 convictions.

The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is $287 and three demerit points.

That penalty does not seem steep enough, because the message continues to fall on deaf ears for some. Numbers continue to rise or hold steady and more needs to be done to get that important message through.

Are you a distracted driver?

How about putting your cell phone, electronics, books, or whatever it may be in the back seat of your vehicle or even in the trunk if necessary. If it’s completely out of reach, the temptation is not there. Or how about pulling over if you need to phone or text someone right away.

There is no doubt that Albertans need to take this more seriously, before more lives are potentially lost.