Driven to distraction

We’ve all seen it. That one driver who chooses to focus on their phone more than the road ahead of them.

We’ve all seen it. That one driver who chooses to focus on their phone more than the road ahead of them.

This type of action is not only irresponsible, but is also incredibly unsafe and could cost someone’s life.

Since the province’s distracted driving law, which currently carries a $172 fine, was rolled out in 2011, the roads are supposed to be much safer.

Now after three years, it’s time to revisit this law and question whether it is working in getting the message across to drivers to change their habits.

A Calgary-East MLA would like the fine for distracted driving to be increased to $250 and to include along with the infraction, the loss of three demerit points for drivers.

Conservative MLA Moe Amery introduced a private members bill in December during the fall legislature session, proposing tougher distracted driving legislation after hearing from many of his constituents.

Amery said he’s also spoken with many law enforcement officials who agree the law needs to be stronger when it comes to enforcement.

“I’ve talked to many, many officers and they’ve said we need something stiffer that the $172 fine,” said Amery during a press conference. “We’re in Alberta. People are working, people are making good money, good wages, so $172 is not that strong of a fine.”

Bill 204, the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving Demerit) Amendment Act, passed first reading on Dec. 4th, but will likely be debated during the spring sitting.

“I’ve got a lot of support from my constituents and I’ve got a lot of support from other people calling me and saying ‘it’s about time,’’ said Amery.

Calgary’s police chief has also called for demerits to penalize distracted drivers.

Both have indicated the law appears not to be working and the problem is getting worse.

Alberta’s transportation minister has rejected the idea of tougher penalties for now, suggesting that most people are still getting used to the law.

Premier Jim Prentice has remained mostly silent, but indicated he would examine the law and speak to law enforcement regarding its effectiveness.

In theory, like all of our laws, the distracted driving law is supposed to work. It seems drivers are willing to just pay the fine and continue on with their habits, without seeing many repercussions.

Back in 2011, some naysayers warned the government that in other jurisdictions, where there is similar legislation, the distracted driving law might not be effective.

This begs the question, if the current law isn’t working, how sure are we that a slightly tougher law will?

A heftier penalty to distracted driving, in particular texting and driving, may wake up some drivers.