Medicine Hat Media

No Distracted Driving for Anyone Except Police

As described in a recent Medicine Hat News article, distracted drivers in Alberta could now be fined under a new law introduced by the Alberta Government on April 21, 2010, if their driving is deemed to be suffering from distraction.

The fine, which is set at $172, applies to anyone who is talking on a handheld cellphone (a headset may be passable), texting, reading, writing, grooming, etc. The aim is to lower vehicle collision rates and force people to drive safer. Many people will jump at the chance to agree that talking and driving is not safe. But what about talking to passengers, especially with all the hand gestures usually involved in talking to someone face to face? I have even seen people driving wearing Alain Mikli Shutter Shades, and if there is one thing Kanye West has taught me, it is that you do not look cool wearing Shutter Shades, plus your vision is probably reduced by like 25%. Who needs to see more than 25% of the road anyway?

Previously the only fine the Police could doll out was a hefty $402 for “Driving without due care and attention” plus 6 demerit points to your driving record. With a law being passed to enforce driving without distractions, we can either expect the average driver to be safer, or for people to hide their phones between their legs while texting. Now all we have to worry about are those police officers who often use their laptops while driving. Wait a minute! Are laptops not an even bigger distraction than cellphones and texting? Not to mention the fact that those police radios are kind of like cellphones too. Maybe they should pull over or come to a complete stop while using them, or maybe police officers are infallible, and unlike the rest of us they can safely do two things at once.

User Comments

16 Responses to “No Distracted Driving for Anyone Except Police”

  1. April 22nd, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Vaughn says:

    Police Officers can do a lot that we can’t do, that just comes with their job. Can you carry around a holstered gun/handcuffs and arrest people? No… therefore Police shouldn’t be able to either?

    This idea of certain laws not being applied to certain people isn’t just a police industry specific topic. What about health inspectors that can come into your restaurant at any time and go through your whole restaurant to check for toxins, unsafe food, etc. Should they not be allowed to do that, because we aren’t allowed to?

  2. April 22nd, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Dusty says:

    I can just imagine me getting ticketed for tying my hair back while sitting at a red light.

    In all seriousness though, I admit that I have been smoking while drinking coke, talking on the phone, on the highway, at 2 AM. The only two accidents I’ve ever been in, which are minor, didn’t involve smoking/drinking/cell phones, but simply one person in the passenger seat beside me, one of those were my fault and it was a parking lot incident.

    Is talking on a cell phone REALLY all that much different from driving with a person? I’ve driven with people who have jerked my steering wheel, randomly shouted really loud, incessantly pushed the hazard lights on, or threaten to pull up the e-brake, obviously these aren’t good practices for passengers but I guarantee someone over a cell phone can’t do such things.

    I think there are people who can’t multitask for nothing, and now everyone suffers because those specific people didn’t recognize their limitations.

  3. April 22nd, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Sean says:

    @Vaughn: Nice argument Mr. I-don’t-have-my-license. ;]

    Too bad I omitted how I have seen a lot of police officers flip their lights on to get through intersections, only to see them 45 seconds later at Tim Hortons.

    @Dusty: I’ve driven with people who have jerked my steering wheel, randomly shouted really loud, incessantly pushed the hazard lights on, or threaten to pull up the e-brake.

    Nadine does all those things to me on a regular basis when we drive together. ;[

  4. April 22nd, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    Gary says:

    Talking to passengers is a lot different than talking to someone on the phone. Someone in the car with you can tell when they need to shut up so that the driver can concentrate. They see what is happening an break off the conversation when needed. Someone on the far end of a cell phone can’t tell when they should quiet down.

    As for the police using those laptops, I’ve never seen a cop use one while driving although the blue glow from the very large gps is almost always visible. I see the cops pulled over on side streets or parking lots several times a week.

    The turning the lights on to get to Tim’s faster thing. Give the guys some slack, what if they were on a legitimate call and then were called off by dispatch or it was some other false alarm. I don’t particularly love the police, but it seems like when people tell stories like this they generally have some bone to pick with the cops.

    @Sean: Jerking the steering wheel, shouting and playing with the other controls are obviously way worse than talking on a cellphone. That’s why we need a $400 driving without due care and attention fine and a $170 driving while talking on a cellphone. We also have laws regarding teen drivers and who they can have as passengers at various times of the day. (I’m assuming that the steering wheel incidents/random shouting happened when you were younger not something that currently happens.)

  5. April 22nd, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Dusty says:

    @Gary: Sean was quoting me, and surprisingly it’s just the way a friend of mine behaves, and she’ll still poke me in the head or pinch me, and yes she is an adult, and no she’s not handicapped.

    The thing with accidents is that most of them are sudden, therefore a passenger doesn’t know when they should let the driver concentrate because it’s instantaneous.

    I think accidents that involve cell phones wouldn’t all have been prevented if the cell phone wasn’t part of the equation.

    I also think children should be banned from being driven in cars because they are WAY more distracting than ANYTHING, except maybe a grizzly bear in the backseat.

  6. April 22nd, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Sean says:

    @Gary: It seems both Dusty and myself know someone who is around our age who likes to bug friends while driving. In reply to you assuming steering wheel incidents/random shouting happens when I was younger… It happens every time I drive with a certain friend, she also pushes my rearview mirror down so I cannot use it. She also tries to shift from the passenger seat and ends up grinding the gears. None of that has caused an accident yet though.

  7. April 22nd, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Tyler says:

    Are people here actually defending distracted driving? I have driven while talking on the phone and can attest to being highly distracted. But maybe you will change your mind, when your friend pulls her stunts and you kill someone. I personally would never let someone like that drive with me, as I respect the lives of those around me. When you get behind the wheel of an automobile you forgo certain “rights” for the safety of people around you. If you have a problem with this, there is plenty of seats available on the bus, and you can text away.

  8. April 22nd, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Taylor says:

    I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with this law, no matter the inconvenience it will inevitable cause me. I can attest to having texted when I was driving on an abandoned rural highway late at night (I live on a farm 20 miles out of the Hat) and I was so distracted it scared me into never doing it again, and the only person I would have hurt was myself. If you honestly think that you aren’t distracted when texting or talking on a phone while driving, then you are very unaware of what driving actually entails and I am a little worried about having to share the road with you. Almost daily I hear of an accident, or a close call that involved some stupid person texting while driving. In fact, my mom was once almost hit while running on a sidewalk, along with three of her running partners, by a woman (and not a teenager) who was texting. It scares me to death that people still think its okay to do this because that puts me and everyone else I know at risk.
    Also, the thing with the cops… I have seen many cops on their laptops while driving. I even saw one on the phone and on the computer simultaneously while driving once. I know that these tools are essential to the job, but if I don’t “have” to text/call while I drive they don’t “have” to be on their computers while they are driving. Doesn’t matter if cops get extra privileges/responsiblities.
    In response to Gary’s comment about false alarms: I know such things happen but when these “false alarms” seem to consistently coincide with yellow lights and a police officer’s coffee craving I have a hard time believing many of the incidents aren’t a bit of an abuse of power. However, that will never change.

  9. April 22nd, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Vaughn says:

    I think Taylor said it:

    The statistical data (as in, evidence and studies, not anecdotal, Dusty) shows that there is an increased risk in the following fields when being distracted (by a mobile phone):

    Total Accidents
    Brake Onset Time
    Braking Force
    Following Distance
    ½ Recovery Time

    There’s some interesting information here, especially in contrast to alcohol:

    As for Tyler, I don’t think anybody is defending it, they are saying there is other, more distracting things.

  10. April 22nd, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Dusty says:

    You are right Vaughn, for example, music has been proven to be distracting. So let’s make music in vehicles illegal. Chewing gum might be the one thing you can do in the car that won’t prove to distract you, assuming you put it in your mouth prior to getting in the vehicle, and disposed of it after you’re safely parked.

  11. April 22nd, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Sean says:

    What about smoking? If writing/reading/grooming/texting/talking is illegal, shouldn’t smoking be too? I mean, you have to find them, light them, manage inhaling, exhaling, windows, dealing with the butt (which often gets littered outside).

  12. April 22nd, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Michelle says:

    i was crossing the street – the big pedestrian crossing by the corona beer store – big flashing lights and all – daylight… cars stopped… I’m pushing a stroller, and holding on to a kid, i’m halfway across the street and a cop car does not see the flashing lights, nor the cars that were stopped in the other direction, or on his side of the road. when he drove past me… i saw him looking at his laptop. if i had not have seen him, you would probably never be seeing this message. he was, no word of a lie, about a foot away from running us over. i was thrilled to have him pull into the coop gas bar though – so he could be told by the driver that did stop, and myself just how close he was to hitting me. if they need to be distracted, they need to pull over, end of story. you should do everything in order to prevent an accident. i’m a parent, and let me say – kids that misbehave in the back seat, are just as dangerous as my being on a cell phone. i turn around for a second, or reach in my bag for a cell phone… it takes half a second for things to go badly.

  13. April 23rd, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    Rod says:

    From now on we will require all drivers to pass a “ditz” test before granting a license. A person must demonstrate they can keep their attention span focussed for a minimum of ten minutes to be able to drive. People with ADD will be given complementary bus passes. Day dreamers will also be ticketed and may face suspension of driving privileges.

    Seriously, do we really need this much interference in our lives? If you can’t see the danger in texting while driving you are an idiot. We don’t need cops ticketing us to prove this point. As for smoking, its not that big of a distraction. Same with talking on the cell phone. These tasks are no more different than adjusting the radio, air conditioning, or adjusting your seat belt. Almost every accident results from a distraction of some sort. Maybe a person is rushed, or stressed, or tired. We don’t need further police involvement to prevent this.

  14. April 23rd, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    gary says:

    “I don’t think anybody is defending it, they are saying there are other, more distracting things.”

    That’s exactly the point of this new law. To have a smaller fine ($172) for doing something that distracts you less, in addition a larger fine ($402) for “Driving without due care and attention”.

    They beauty of it is that society can give you a small fine for almost causing injury or property damage or a large fine for actually hurting someone or damaging their property.

    @Sean & Dusty: I guess it just goes to show that not everyone allowed to vote is actually an adult.

    @Taylor: There is very little incentive for a cop to race through a yellow other than the pure joy of turning your lights on. There is no one following the cops around to make sure that their break times are set in stone. A cop could take an extra 30 minutes and no one would ever know. Cops don’t race through lights as often as people think because it doesn’t matter when they start their break. Besides all they would have to do to get around that stereotype would be to run all the lights on their way to Tim’s except the last two.

  15. April 23rd, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Larry says:

    If they are going to enforce this then I think the same should apply to anyone using the streets and highways in Alberta, with NO Exceptions. When you think about it this has to include pedestrians. Why should drivers been made responsible for the actions of all parties. Go drive around the city for a few hours. Everything discussed here applies to people crossing streets, walking their dogs, cats and kids. And babies, let’s talk about babies, I can’t count the times I have seen babies playing with their toys and not paying attention to how their mommies are piloting the carriage. Let’s fine some of those little miscreates.

    Police Officers that drive police cars are required to take regular testing & training. You on the other hand, if you have a license, are tested once most likely when you were 16, and told to go forth and drive whatever vehicle, with whatever amount of horsepower you can afford, for the rest of your life, or until your adult children take the keys out of your enfeebled hands.

  16. April 23rd, 2010 at 11:50 PM

    TW says:

    I think the real issue here is what exactly is a distraction. A passenger can be just as much of a distraction as anything else. What about the radio/stereo? Isn’t singing to a song a distraction too. What about pets or kids in the vehicle? They are likely the worst distraction. Then there are many distractions that are outside of the vehicle that draw the driver’s attention. While I do agree that it would be nice to try and make everyone be better drivers I am not sure any law that tries to define what a person can or can’t do will solve anything. It’s time for people to start using some common sense. Maybe we should enforce other basic black and white laws like running red lights and stop signs or turning into the wrong lane first before we try and enforce grey judgemental laws such as whether someone is distracted or not.

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