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Distracted driving tickets issued in Calgary drop significantly in 2019

Distracted driving tickets issued in Calgary drop significantly in 2019
WATCH ABOVE: The number of distracted driving charges laid by Calgary police in 2019 dropped dramatically from the year before. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

The number of distracted driving tickets issues by Calgary police dropped by 36 per cent in 2019 compared to the previous year.

According to police, officers handed out 3783 tickets for distracted driving, down from 5944 in 2018.

READ MORE: Alberta crash survivor shares message to reduce distracted driving

“The more tickets we issued, like we did in 2018, we may have saved a lot of people’s lives. We may have saved a lot of collisions,” Sgt. Colin Foster with the Calgary Police Service Traffic Unit said.

“Maybe the message is getting through. I hope it is.”

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On Jan. 1, 2016, penalties jumped from $172 to $287 in addition to three demerit points.

“The consequences of using your cell phone while you were driving can be horrific, Foster said. “We rely on witnesses in a lot of our investigations and the minute we hear that someone is on their cell phone and that leads towards a collision, we start to drift towards those criminal code charges.” 

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It’s hard to say exactly what contributed to the large drop in the the number of tickets that were issued last year. Calgary police traffic unit officers said it’s likely a combination of factors.

READ MORE: Distracted driving could mean higher insurance rates for motorists

“It’s socially more unacceptable for people to use their cell phones while they are driving. There’s lots more public awareness,” Foster said.

“The courts are obviously playing their role and dealing with people who we do bring to court. I think it’s good to see those numbers are down. I personally would like to see no cell phones at all in vehicles.”

Some Calgary drivers agree times are changing.

“There’s a bit of peer pressure for that … Everybody knows you shouldn’t be doing it. There’s the stigma and you see more of what’s happening, the results of distracted driving which are never pretty,” said Blair Pepper.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan distracted driving fines to more than double in 2020

Starting on Feb. 1, 2020, fines will significantly increase for distracted driving in Saskatchewan.

Fines for first-time offenders will more than double from the current $280 to $580. A conviction will also cost the driver four demerit points.

A second distracted driving offence within the same year will cost $1,400, four demerits and an immediate week-long vehicle seizure.

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According to Alberta Transportation the number of convictions in Calgary for distracted driving dropped by 39 per cent from 2015 to 2018.

There were a total of 23,546 convictions in Alberta in 2018.