Alta. declares February distracted driving month

Talking on a hand-held phone or texting while driving can cost Alberta motorists $287 and three demerit points.

That penalty is important to remember, particularly in February, which has been designated as “distracted driving month” by the provincial government.

Alberta statistics indicate driver distractions contribute to 20 or 30 percent of collisions. Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision, according to a news release from the provincial transportation department.

Distracted driving under Alberta law includes using hand-held cellphones, texting or emailing, using laptops, video games, cameras and portable audio players, entering information on a GPS unit, reading printed matter, writing, printing or sketching, and personal grooming such as flossing teeth, applying makeup and shaving.

About 97 percent of convictions under the distracted driving law, which was enacted in September 2011, are for using a hand-held electronic device while driving, the news release said.

Male drivers made up nearly two-thirds of all convictions in 2016-17, and young male drivers ages 22 to 34 have the highest conviction rates.

The penalty addition of three demerit points for a distracted driving conviction was enacted Jan. 1, 2016. Before that, a fine but no demerit points were attached.

Tickets are issued to the driver, not the registered owner, and can be issued regardless of whether driving performance has been affected by the distractions.

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