Alberta takes first step towards banning texting while driving

“The government of Alberta will present next fall what it calls “the most comprehensive distracted drivig legislation in Canada”, which would among other things make texting while driving illegal.

In the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act, drivers who engage in any of the activities identified as distracted driving would face a fine of $172.  Cops would have discretion to hand out careless driving infraction, which would mean a $402 fine and six demerit points.

The preliminary list of illegal activities includes manipulating items such as cell phones, PDAs, electronic devices, portable audio players, GPS devices, but also inappropriate activities such as reading, writing, and even personal grooming while driving.

This legislation is a practical, effective and enforceable approach to the issue of distracted driving,” said in a statement. “We are sending a strong safety message to all Albertans: When you’re in your vehicle, your focus must be on driving.”

A few exceptions would apply.  Drivers would still be allowed to use their phone with a hands-free device.  Emergency services and commercial CB radios for commercial purposes would also be allowed.

The new bill will be discussed in the fall by the Legislative Assembly, and it is scheduled to take effect in the spring 2011 if approved.

At the beginning of the year, British Columbia and Saskatchewan banned talking on hand-held phones while driving.  Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec already had similar laws.

Source:  Alberta Transportation Press Release, April 14, 2010

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