It’s been nearly one year since Alberta brought in distracted driving legislation and it appears Lethbridge motorists still aren’t getting the message.
“All you have to do is stand on the corner and you can watch people talking on phones,” says Sgt. Craig Deimuth of the Lethbridge Regional Police Traffic Response Unit. “Count away, lots of people are still getting away with it.”
Still, many drivers are being caught on their phones. Proof is in the numbers.
In February, 195 distracted driving tickets had been handed out. As of Monday, that number has spiked to 893, an increase of over 300 per cent. That has police searching for answers.
“People continue using phones, texting, eating, reading,” says Deimuth. “It’s disappointing to see it’s still so prevelant.”
“That suggests Albertans have drifted back to our old high-risk ways of using cell phones while driving,” says Ron Szarko of the Alberta Motor Association. He claims Alberta’s distracted driving legislation is among the best in country.
However, he suggests police enforcement can only go so far, and the will to stop texting has to come from within.
“You’re four to six times more likely to crash using a cell phone, but you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting,” Szarko says.
Officers say they aren’t making specific efforts to catch distracted drivers, saying many people are caught using their phones at red lights while stopped beside marked police cruisers.
But the worry is for when distracted driving has a much more serious consequence.
“You happen to hit a child in the crosswalk, you have to ask if you can live with that,” says Szarko.
“It can happen in a heartbeat.”
Authorities say a cell phone is to blame in a rollover on a rural southeast Alberta highway over the weekend.
It’s believed distracted driving may have also been involved in a fatality east of Coaldale last fall.