Hands off the hand-held, hands on the wheel
Love it or hate it, it’s finally here.
By now, most Albertans are adapting to Alberta’s new distracted driving legislation, which started Sept. 1.
The law covers a range of potentially distracting activities, from putting on makeup to browsing for songs on an iPod. Violations carry a $172 fine.
Although some are wondering how effectively it will be enforced.
“I don’t think it’s going to work,” said Justine Holland, a second-year geology student at Mount Royal University. “People in this city are too arrogant.”
Holland added she didn’t think the law would do much to curb distracted driving because many people are just going to do it anyway. She said the $172 fine is too low to make people care about getting caught, and they should give demerit points instead.
Amy Brown, a second-year science student at MRU, said she thinks the legislation is a good idea because some will stop distracted driving simply because it’s now against the law.
The Government of Alberta stated it believes the fine will encourage drivers to keep their attention on the road. However, drivers exhibiting “what is deemed to be more serious or risky behaviors” could be charged with driving carelessly. The current penalty for driving carelessly is six demerit points and a $402 fine.
Roland Lahaye, a criminologist and justice studies professor at Mount Royal, said he believes the law is an important step that will save lives.
“There’s no two ways about it,” Lahaye said. “Most of us have heard, or we’ve actually seen, situations where we would wish this law had been enforced.
“It’s a relevant law. The challenge will be how to enforce it in a reasonable fashion.
“I think it’s interesting because (Alberta’s law) is fairly broad, maybe broader than most others across Canada,” he added. “It really leaves it open to almost anything in terms of what the police officer can decide constitutes a distraction and that might create some problems in the future.”
Though the current law is broad, Lahaye said it may eventually tighten up as law officials adjust to it and see what works and what doesn’t. He pointed out that when the seatbelt law first came into effect there were those who resisted because they didn’t want their personal freedom tampered with, but that legislation has saved numerous lives.
The new legislation applies to every road in the province, even in the most rural areas.
Though the law has some wondering how they’re going to manage without the ability to multi-task while driving, Alberta’s government is firm that people need to stop thinking of driving as wasted time that could be better spent doing other things.
“Sometimes people forget that when you’re in your vehicle, your primary focus should be on driving,” the government stated in a release. “We seem to treat our vehicles like a second living room, or a couch on wheels, or even a mobile office. That has to change.”
As a side note, cyclists can also be charged under the new law.
The no-no list: what’s not allowed while driving:
- Eating with two hands or a utensil
- Using a handheld cellphone
- Using devices like laptops, video games and cameras
- Programming portable music players
- Manually entering info on GPS units
- Reading printed material such as books
- Writing, printing or sketching
- Personal grooming like putting on makeup or brushing teeth