Edmonton police have handed out nearly 2,500 distracted driving tickets so far this year, a 57 per cent spike over the same time last year.
In the first quarter of 2017, 2,455 distracted driving tickets were issued to drivers in Edmonton. At this time last year, 1,560 tickets had been handed out.
Edmonton police say this is on target, as they wanted to increase distracted driving enforcement in 2017. Still, those who promote driver safety find the numbers alarming.
“These numbers are incredibly frustrating,” said Jeff Kasbrick with the Alberta Motor Association, adding drivers are 23 times more likely to get into a crash if they’re texting behind the wheel.
“We need to accept that the selfie can wait, the tweet can wait, or responding to that text message can all wait until we’re in a safe spot to be able to respond to those.”
Kasbrick suggests enforcement and education are key when it comes to changing drivers’ behaviour. He says it’s important to always be looking at what other jurisdictions are doing to combat the crime.
But while stricter penalties might help, he says there isn’t enough evidence available from the last penalty increase to gauge the effectiveness of the deterrence. In Alberta, a distracted driving ticket comes with a $287 fine and three demerit points. The demerit points were tacked on to the ticket as of Jan. 1, 2016.
“Some of the initial data that we are seeing from Edmonton Police Service is indicating that we still have a lot of work to do,” Kasbrick said.
While speaking about overall driving behaviours in the city earlier this month, police chief Rod Knecht said he is very concerned about the way Edmontonians drive.
“There’s irresponsible behaviour out there,” he said. “For some people… this is a very small number of people, there’s only one thing they understand… I call it punishment.”
A total of 8,473 distracted driving tickets were handed out in Edmonton in 2016. In 2015, 5,506 distracted driving tickets were issued by Edmonton police.
Based on the number of tickets handed out last year, Edmonton police are on pace to write 13,334 distracted driving tickets this year.