Edmonton police were sharing the love Friday morning while also reminding drivers to be safe behind the wheel.
Chief Dale McFee was one of several EPS members handing out cookies from local bakery Confetti Sweets labelled with the play on words, “Practise Safe Text!”
It’s all part of the force’s third annual Valentine’s Day distracted driving awareness initiative, which sees officers briefly engage with motorists at red light intersections to remind them not to text while driving.
“Obviously it’s a safety issue,” McFee said while handing out cookies on Gateway Boulevard at Whyte Avenue in south Edmonton.
“Valentine’s Day is a day to look after your loved ones, so we’re at three or four locations today just kinda reminding people, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day but at the same time, let’s be safe in our vehicles.'”
Distracted driving laws have been in effect in Alberta since September 2011.
While conviction numbers have decreased between 2015 and 2019 in other large cities like Calgary, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer, they have stayed fairly steady in Edmonton.
McFee said changing habits is difficult.
“It’s that thing — we live with our phones in our hands everyday,” he said.
“You know, the statistics in relation to collisions, fatalities and serious injuries are up there the same as impaired driving – and you think about how long we’ve been at the impaired driving push. The texting push is going to take equally as long.”
The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is a $287 fine and three demerit points.
“At the end of the day, it’s not worth an injury,” McFee said.
As more vehicles become equipped with technology that incorporate phone features, McFee said he hopes that will result in people picking up their phone less often.
“Hopefully technology will play a little bit of a part in the solution as opposed to causing the problem. I think in time, technology will help us solve that problem.”
According to the province, these are the activities that are considered distracted driving — even while stopped at red lights:
- using hand-held cellphones
- texting or e-mailing
- using electronic devices such as laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players such as MP3 players
- entering information on GPS units
- reading printed materials in the vehicle
- writing, printing or sketching
- personal grooming such as brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails or shaving
Police officers were also handing out cookies at 137 Avenue and 97 Street, St. Albert Trail and 137 Avenue, and Mill Woods Road and 28 Avenue (near Frere Antoine Elementary School.)