I consider myself a decent driver. I may have a bit of a lead foot, but overall I follow the rules of the road and try to be considerate of my fellow drivers. With 25 years of experience under my belt, I’ve had two minor collisions. Both were my fault and both were the result of distracted driving. Yes, distracted driving, but it’s not what you think. I wasn’t making calls with the phone in-hand or writing a novel on my tablet. No, I was tending to my children. Attempting to desperately unravel fruit bars to quell the screaming, negotiating toddler world peace, and entertaining the unruly brood. Some wouldn’t call this distracted driving, just life but the truth is if you’re doing anything else behind the wheel besides focusing on the road and the drivers in your realm, you are in fact distracted. Would the police have pulled me over for my actions? Not likely, but I can guarantee both accidents would not have happened if I were truly paying attention.
Did you know that in Alberta, since September 1, 2011, when distracted driving legislation was introduced until March 31, 2015, there have been 87,633 convictions?
- 97% of these convictions were for using a hand-held electronic device while driving,
- Research indicates that driver distraction contributes to 20-30% of all collisions.
This really is a problem.
Know the Law
Once upon a time distracted driving meant doing your make-up or reading in rush hour traffic, but thanks to mobile technology there are a million new things we can be doing on the go. Here is a list of the big no-no’s on your drive, as set out by the ministry of transportation. These should come as no surprise…
- Using hand-held cell phones
- Texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at red lights)
- Using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players)
- Entering information on GPS units
- Reading printed materials in the vehicle
- Writing, printing or sketching
- Personal grooming (brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails or shaving)
Know the Costs
Recent changes to distracted driving laws mean that committing any of these acts just became far more costly. Not only will you be subject to some pretty steep fines, but you’ll also collect demerits and those will follow you around for a few years driving up your insurance rates. Collect too many demerits and this could mean a suspension of your license; just eight is enough if you still have a graduated license.
Effective January 1, 2016 in Alberta the penalty for distracted driving is a $287 fine AND three demerit points. In Ontario that fine is even higher, starting at a whopping $400 and climbing all the way to $1,000 if you receive a summons or choose to fight it.
You can even be charged with dangerous driving (a criminal offence), with jail terms of up to five years.
And what about multi-taskers like me who aren’t using devices but are simply distracted? We could be fined too. If a police officer observes your behaviour and deems that you are not fully engaged in the task at hand, it is at their discretion to offer warning or charge you with an offence.
Play it Safe
I don’t text and drive and when I do talk on the phone it’s always hands-free. And, since not driving my children around is not an option, I’ve changed the way I manage them on the road too. I make sure they have everything they need before we get moving and if war erupts en route, I pull over the car. This has the added benefit of instilling a little fear in them too – if I’ve pulled over the car they know I mean business!
Fines and points are costly it’s true, but let’s not forget that you could be paying the ultimate price of a life. Yours, that of someone you love or a total stranger – No matter whom, it’s just not worth it.
Sources and Resources – A Little Extra Info if You Are Interested
Have More Questions?
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Everyday Insurance With Allie
Working mom, lover of the great outdoors and self-professed know-it-all. Our resident blogger, Allie isn’t the insurance guru she claims to be – but she’s learning and we are happy to help guide her. All the while keeping you in the loop on the “insurancey” stuff you need to know.