Some Alberta drivers are calling on the province to adopt similar penalties for distracted driving as Ontario.
Stiff penalties passed by the Ontario government came into effect on Jan. 1. Under the new law, an Ontario motorist caught distracted driving for the first time could face a $1,000 fine, three demerit points and a three-day license suspension.
If there are second and third convictions within five years, the fines double and triple, respectively. Each instance would also result in six demerit points. Drivers would lose their licence for seven days upon the second conviction, and 30 days upon the third conviction.
In Alberta, the fine for distracted driving is $287 and three demerits, but some drivers say that is not a steep enough penalty.
“I’ve seen it all … doing their make-up. I don’t care what it is, if you’re going to drive like that, you deserve what you get,” driver Sherry, who didn’t give a last name, said.
“I would support the position that Ontario has taken because I think that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous,” another driver, who didn’t provide a name, said.
According to Alberta Transportation, distracted driving convictions in Alberta have gone down. But the numbers are still significant, with the latest statistics showing 23,546 fines in 2017-2018.
The highest number of offenses (18,659) relate to drivers using handheld devices like phones to communicate while behind the wheel. People have also been caught reading, writing and grooming while driving.
Lee Brooks is a retired class-one commercial driver. He has driven many kilometres on highways and says he has seen multiple collisions because of distracted driving. He wants the penalties to be much stricter across the country.
“I believe fully it should be Canada-wide. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think $1,000 is enough. I think it should be a three-month suspension automatically,” Brooks said.
In November, Manitoba increased its distracted driving fine to nearly $700 and a three-day licence suspension, but so far it has not had an impact on the habits of some drivers.
According to Manitoba Public Insurance, a total of 237 drivers province-wide had their licenses suspended for the minimum three-day period within in the first month of the new penalties coming into place.