21K distracted driving tickets issued in 3 years in Edmonton

A photo illustration of distracted driving.
A photo illustration of distracted driving. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press

Edmonton police have handed out about 20 distracted driving tickets a day over the past three years, the service said Wednesday morning as part of distracted driving enforcement week.

Since 2015, Edmonton police say they have issued more than 21,000 distracted driving violations: 5,935 in 2015, 8,065 in 2016, and 7,403 in 2017. That’s an average of about 20 tickets a day.

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While the number of tickets issued decreased slightly last year, Edmonton police said distracted driving remains an ongoing issue. The most common problem is texting.

“The majority of drivers we see during enforcement are caught by surprise and many don’t believe they’re breaking the law,” EPS west division traffic team Const. Trevor Henderson said, adding the number of tickets issued represents only a fraction of the people they see using their phones while behind the wheel.

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“The law doesn’t only restrict manipulating a cellphone or device while driving, such as texting or talking, it also restricts holding or viewing it.”

READ MORE: Distracted driving tickets in Edmonton up nearly 60% over this time last year

According to Alberta Transportation, between 20 and 30 per cent of all collisions are due to distracted driving and distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision.

“Despite the danger of taking your eyes off the road, drivers continue to use their devices behind the wheel,” Henderson said.

The distracted driving law came into effect in 2011, and initially had a $172 fine and no demerits. When 2016 rolled around, that fine went up to $287 and included three demerit points.

Across Alberta in 2017, there were over 24,000 distracted driving convictions, according to data from the provincial government. Numbers from 2014 to 2017 showed men were twice as likely as women to be found guilty.

READ MORE: Fines, stats and rules — what you need to know about distracted driving in Alberta

Distracted driving includes a variety of activities, not just using your phone. People can be ticketed for doing the following things while driving:

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  • Using hand-held cellphones
  • Texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at red lights)
  • Using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players)
  • Entering information into a GPS
  • Reading printed materials
  • Writing, printing or sketching
  • Personal grooming (brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails or shaving)