It’s a daily occurrence on city streets: someone behind the wheel distracted with their smartphone.
“There are so many factors why we should put the phone away,” driver Carole Mason said. “So many risks.”
According to the Edmonton Police Service, distracted driving involves more than use of a smartphone behind the wheel; a list of what’s considered distracted driving is provided on the EPS website:
While driving (including drive-thrus), it is illegal to:
- Use a hand-held phone while talking, texting and/or e-mailing
- Operate electronic devices like video players and laptops
- Manually program GPS units or portable audio players
- Read or write
- Engage in personal grooming
Motorists who are caught now have to worry about more than the $287 fine; some insurance companies are also paying close attention.
“We’ve seen it most recently,” said Jennifer Donohue, a vice president with brokerage firm Access Insurance.
She indicates more insurers are moving towards treating distracted driving as a major infraction, with the corresponding consequences.
“There’ll be at least a 15 per cent surcharge added,” Donohue said.
“In some cases, they (the insurance companies) will not offer collision insurance.”
Collision insurance is required for anyone who finances the purchase of their vehicle.
Donohue points out insurance companies are simply looking to recoup their costs because “they’re paying out more insurance claims because people aren’t paying attention.”
“The best thing to do is to turn the phone off.”
Global News spoke with several drivers to gauge reaction.
“There’ll always be those people that just don’t care,” said James DeBruijn, “but hopefully it helps.”
Jason McClure isn’t worried about insurance changes impacting distracted drivers.
He says when he’s behind the wheel, his focus is on the road.
“As long as it doesn’t affect me, across the board, whatever. It is what it is, right?”
Distracted driving became a ticketable offence on Sept. 1, 2011.