The government of Saskatchewan announced new, stiffer distracted driving penalties on Tuesday that could cost repeat offenders upwards of $6,000 when tickets, towing and impound fees and insurance penalties are all factored in.
While they can come in many forms, the distraction that first comes to many minds when talking about driving is cellphone use.
“There is a cellphone specific law which states you can’t hold, use, manipulate or view a cellphone while driving. Most of the people who get a ticket that would qualify as distracted driving fall into that category,” said SGI media relations manager Tyler McMurchy.
That doesn’t mean drivers are completely prohibited from having devices operate in their vehicles while they’re on the road.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do a number of ride-alongs with police who are out looking for distracted drivers,” said McMurchy, who also noted that cellphone use is completely prohibited for drivers still in the GDL program.
He highlighted excessive scrolling, taking selfies and watching videos as the kind of actions police are looking for.
Though it may come as a surprise to some, McMurchy also said drivers can wear earbuds to take calls, provided they don’t feature noise cancellation.
“I would be very careful to not use anything that’s cancelling out the noise, but as long as you’re not holding the phone in your hand or on your lap you should be OK,” he said.
“But there is some officer discretion involved, so if the officer believes you are distracted by anything in that vehicle you could get a ticket for that.”
The new penalties take effect in February.
With that in mind, Global News stopped by Visions Electronics on Victoria Avenue to check out the latest and greatest in hands-free tech ahead of the holiday season.
“When it comes to having it connect to your phone and not have it to your ear, most of the time it’s just your basic buds. They can be wired or wireless,” said Visions Electronics regional cellular manager Darryl Tanasychuk.
“Your basic earbuds can be between ten and fifty bucks generally speaking, or anywhere between fifty to infinity for the really high-end stuff, but you do want to stay away from noise cancelling as that would block out sounds you should be aware of.”
“A lot of cellphone cases, even, have some attachments you can mount it with,” Tanasychuk said.
“There’s ones that attach to a windshield, or your air vent or anywhere in between. Some of them will even charge your phone as well.”
“If you do want to go a whole other direction and if you don’t have bluetooth in your vehicle, you actually can find things that can connect to your vehicle,” Tanasychuk said.
“You can buy a whole new stereo. A new stereo can integrate with your phone, sometimes wirelessly, sometimes with a cable, but generally this is the most expensive option — upwards of 500 to 1000 dollars.”