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    Categories: Local News

February is distracted driving month in Alberta

The St. Albert RCMP and Morinville RCMP want to remind the public that February is distracted driving awareness month in Alberta.

Both units will be focusing their attention on preventing and stopping distracted driving over the course of the month.

In Alberta, distracted driving is defined as “the diversion of attention from driving as a result of the driver focusing on a non-driving object, activity, event or person. This diversion reduces awareness, decision-making or performance leading to increased risk of driver error and collisions.”

“Despite significant penalties distracted driving is still a problem on our roadways," Const. Yelena Avoine with the St. Albert RCMP said.

On Jan. 30, 2017 the St. Albert traffic unit and municipal enforcement issued a total of 37 tickets during a traffic operation along St. Albert Trail. The majority of the tickets issued were for distracted driving.

“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 Inspector Steve Daley, acting officer-in-charge of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services.

Across Alberta there were 27,281 convictions for distracted driving between April 2015 and May 2016.

In Alberta the penalty for distracted driving is a $287 fine and three demerits. Drivers who exhibit more serious or risky behaviours associated with distracted driving could be charged with driving carelessly, which carries six demerits and a fine of $543.

Research shows that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers and distractions contribute to 20 to 30 per cent of all collisions. The most common distractions were things outside the vehicle, adjusting music, other passengers and moving objects inside the vehicle.

The RCMP recommend putting phones away while driving and only checking it when the vehicle is parked in a safe place. Drivers can also pull over to attend to kids or pets and to set the temperature, GPS and radio before leaving for their trip.

Alberta’s distracted driving law restricts drivers from:
• using hand-held cellphones
• texting or emailing
• using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays, and programming portable audio players
• entering information on GPS units
• reading printed materials in the vehicle
• writing, printing or sketching and
• personal grooming

Jennifer Henderson: Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.