Alberta’s new Distracted Driving Law (Bill 16) goes into effect on September 1st, following a modest public awareness campaign with the theme, What are you doing behind the wheel?
Here in River City, the law is long overdue – and today’s announcement by the Edmonton Police Service that enforcement will begin immediately with no “This is just a warning” grace period. That enforcement means a stiff $172 fine, although no demerit points are in play.
If a driver gets caught chatting on a handheld cell phone, he pays. The blondie busted with her eyes on the rear-view to oversee a fresh application of rouge? She pays the green. Salt n’ pepper-haired executive running a Remington across his cheeks? Close shave but he pays, too.
It’s a shame the new law does not ban talking on hands-free devices. All of the research shows that the distraction level of talking on hands-free versus talking on a handheld is at the same dangerous level. Studies have shown unequivocally that holding a phone is not what distracts drivers, it’s the conversation with someone who isn’t in the vehicle. A person that isn’t in the vehicle is a person blind to traffic ebbs and flows and dangers. This person cannot recognize those frequent and critical moments when to stop talking to allow the driver to stay focused on the primary task: driving safely.
However, including restrictions on hands-free devices would be almost impossible to enforce. “No, officer, I wasnt talking on the phone; I was having a little tete-a-tete avec moi.”
Come September 1st, I hope EPS is out in force with thick new citation books to enforce the Distracted Driving Law. Hit ‘em hard where it hurts. River City’s long been needing this crackdown.