The Strategic Traffic Enforcement Program for February will focus on Distracted Driving, which continues to be a traffic safety priority for the Medicine Hat Police Service. In 2020, the MHPS issued 495 tickets for distracted driving and yet the issue continues to grow. Many motorists continue to operate their vehicles while distracted, regardless of the fines and demerits associated with the offence. The risks associated with distracted driving closely resemble those of impairment and can have deadly consequences.
In Alberta, the penalty for distracted driving is a $300 fine and 3 demerits.
The Traffic Safety Act restricts drivers from:
• using hand held cell phones, texting or emailing
• using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (MP3 players)
• entering information on GPS units
• reading printed materials in the vehicle
• writing, printing or sketching
• and personal grooming
A driver can pull over to the side of the road to use their devices, providing they are stopped and legally parked. If a driver is not in a legal parking spot, for instance a drive-thru, a ticket can still be issued. The only time a driver can use their cell phone while driving is to call in an emergency situation to a 9-1-1 Communications Centre.
Among the most frequently asked questions regarding this law is whether pets are specifically addressed by the law. The answer is yes. The Traffic Safety Act also allows police to charge a driver who permits anything, including a pet, to occupy the front seat of the vehicle in such a manner that it interferes with the driver's access to the vehicle controls and the safe operation of the vehicle. Furthermore, the Traffic Safety Act allows police to charge a driver who permits anything, including a pet, to cause any obstruction to the driver's clear vision in any direction.
To learn more about all forms of distracted driving, laws to enforce safer behaviours and why focusing on the road is so important visit https://www.alberta.ca/distracted-driving.aspx.
Sgt. Gerald Sadlemyer
Medicine Hat Police Service