February 4, 2015 9:56 pm
Updated: February 4, 2015 11:07 pm

Alberta considers tougher legislation on distracted driving


WATCH ABOVE: The transportation minister hinted changes could be coming to Alberta’s distracted driving legislation as hundreds of students heard from one driver about the dangers. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON — Changes to Alberta’s distracted driving legislation could be on the way.

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Since the introduction of the legislation three-and-a-half years ago, there have been calls to make it tougher. A distracted driving ticket in Alberta currently comes with a $172 fine, however, that may change. Alberta’s Transportation Minister hinted Wednesday that demerits could soon be tacked on to distracted driving tickets.

“We’re considering (it),” said Wayne Drysdale.

The province recently conducted a survey asking Albertans their thoughts on the legislation. There is also a private member’s bill on the floor that calls for fine increases and the introduction of demerits.

“I’m going to wait to get the survey results and speak to the bill in the house, but yes, we know it’s a matter of times before we have to move in that direction,” said Drysdale.

READ MORE: Alberta MLA wants to beef up distracted driving penalty

The transportation minister made the comments as hundreds of Alberta students gathered to hear about the dangers of distracted driving. A young Red Deer race car driver is making it his mission to educate soon-to-be drivers on the importance of staying focused behind the wheel.

“In racing, I know that taking my attention off the track for even a second can have serious consequences, and it’s no different when driving on our roads and highways,” said 16-year-old Parker Thompson, who got behind the wheel of his first kart when he was eight years old.

“Going 240 km/h on the racetrack, I feel much safer than driving home from the races due to the fact that we have oncoming traffic, we’ve got drivers that are distracted and it’s extremely dangerous.”

There were 25,913 convictions for distracted driving in Alberta last year. Of those, 96 per cent were for using a hand-held electronic device while driving.

“We live in a world right now where it is so instantaneous. You tweet, you text, everything is so instant that kids don’t take the time to text safely,” said Parker. “It’s extremely dangerous.”

That’s why he’s taking his message to the next generation, in hopes it will resonate.

“Parker is taking the initiative to share valuable lessons so others can develop good behaviours before getting behind the wheel,” said Drysdale.

“The children, they pay attention to him. If I get up there and speak we lose them.”

Between Sept. 1, 2011 – when the legislation came into effect – and March 31, 2014 there were 60,216 convictions for distracted driving in Alberta.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News. 

© 2015 Shaw Media

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