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Province approves distracted driving law

By: Trevor Bacque

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011 04:13 pm

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The Alberta Government has announced Sept. 1 as the date of effect for a law designed to stop driver distractions and reduce accidents.

Bill 16, the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act will ban the use of cell phones and texting, reading, writing and personal grooming will also be outlawed. Those in violation of the new legislation will face a $172 fine.

Calgary-Hays MLA and former Calgary police officer Art Johnson tabled the initial legislation and it was approved Nov. 17, 2010. He said there is now a “good balance between enforcement and safety.”

“I am pleased with the efforts that have been made on bringing forward a piece of legislation that strives to make our roads safer,” said Johnston.

“I appreciate the great input of law enforcement and traffic safety stakeholders that has led to the introduction of this legislation.”

The new legislation will apply in rural areas as well, such as Rocky View County.

“I guess we have to trust the lawmakers of this country of this law,” said Rolly Ashdown, County reeve. “We support whatever laws there are, unless they cause our people harm or discomfort of some kind, and this doesn’t.”

Ashdown said he talked on his cell phone frequently, while driving but eventually switched to a hands-free device.

“Personally, I’m not convinced hands-free (isn’t distracting), but I’m certainly willing to go with what the law is,” said Ashdown.

Many critics of hands-free devices claim they are as big a distraction as holding a phone and talking.

“Science tells us that there’s absolutely no difference with the danger of hand cells and hands-free,” said Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, injury researcher and emergency physician at the University of Alberta. “It’s the conversation that’s the distraction.”

Francescutti said more than 50 per cent of the brain is activated when it’s listening and people are not focusing on the road ahead of them.

“You will focus on that and you won’t see the child come out or the light turn red,” said Francescutti.

Conversation between two people in a car is much different since the passenger can change their cadence, pitch and tone depending on what is happening on the road, added Francescutti.

The Province had an opportunity to become a national leader in traffic safety, yet fell short, according to the doctor.

The new law also extends to bicycles under the Traffic Safety Act.

The rules still allow drivers to smoke, drink beverages, use an earphone if part of a hands-free device, call 911 and talk with passengers.

The legislation bans touching a GPS navigation system while driving or even holding a cell phone.

Drivers with new vehicles complete with hands-free technology are allowed to use the technology.

For full details of the law, visit www.transportation.alberta.ca


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