Police cracking down on distracted driving
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 11:28 am
Police detachments across the province are ramping up enforcement against distracted driving throughout the month of February.
According to Alberta Sheriffs Superintendant James Stiles, anywhere between 20 to 30 per cent of serious collisions on Alberta roads are caused by distracted driving.
The crackdown on distracted driving falls under the Alberta Traffic Safety Plan, which focuses on a different driving offense as a focal point for each month of the year.
Officers are using a variety of methods to prevent the offense and keep roads safe including the “crotches kill” billboard campaign, static observation posts and reliance on reports from other motorists.
“The big concern is that you can see it right there in front of you yet people are still doing it,” said Stiles. “You can see when a person has a phone in their hand or to their ear, and all it takes is one second of taking your focus off the road for an accident to occur.”
Since the distracted driving law was legislated in 2011, Integrated Traffic Units (ITU) have issued more than 10,000 tickets for the offense. The collaborative unit that is made up of both the RCMP and Alberta Sheriffs has already issued over 600 distracted driving tickets in Alberta this year.
“Even with all this information going out, some drivers are still not getting the message,” said Superintendant Howard Eaton, RCMP ‘K’ Division Traffic Services. “We are still attending crashes caused by driver inattention and we still see people talking on the phone, texting or watching movies.”
On Nov. 27, 2013 Airdrie ITU charged a motorist driving a minivan who was watching a movie on a laptop that was in his passenger seat while driving near Carstairs. On Jan. 4, police nabbed an Edmonton man who had his laptop open on his dashboard while he was driving through a winter storm.
Watching movies while driving is just one of many out-of-the-ordinary distractions that drivers have taken part in, according to Stiles.
“We’ve pulled someone over who was playing their guitar while driving, we’ve had someone eating an ice cream sundae with a spoon and someone who had a pizza box in their lap when they drove over a curb,” said Stiles.
“These things would usually be kind of comical if they weren’t putting people in danger.”
If any motorist spots a potentially distracted driver, they are advised to contact the police via a hands-free phone, or to pull over to the side of the road before calling.