SAIT STUDENTS IGNORE DISTRACTED DRIVING LAW
“Overall, 68 per cent admitted that their habits have not changed since the law was put in place, but not one of the 100 people interviewed said they had received a ticket for their distracted behaviour, and only one acknowledged receiving a warning from police since the law kicked in Sept. 1.”
Check out some of the discussions @DropItAndDrive/distracted-driving on Twitter or ‘People against Distracted Driving’ on Facebook…. in the mean time, here’s an article a classmate and I wrote on the introduction of the law to Calgary back in September.
By Otisha Sousa and Chance Skauge
Alberta’s new distracted driving law isn’t having much impact on the habits of SAIT students, an informal survey has found.
Of 100 students questioned about the law Sept. 15-22, more than two-thirds of them, 68 per cent, acknowledged that they still compose and send text messages while in traffic.
Seventy-two per cent said they still talk on the phone, and 68 per cent continue to use electronic devices while behind the wheel, the survey found.
Eight per cent admitted that they read printed materials and 16 per cent per cent groom themselves while driving.
Overall, 68 per cent admitted that their habits have not changed since the law was put in place but not one of the 100 people interviewed said they had received a ticket for their distracted behaviour, and only one acknowledged receiving a warning from police since the law kicked in Sept. 1.
Those surveyed expressed doubts about the enforceability of the new law, frustration with the lack of information on what is considered to be distracted driving, and a concern that the Calgary Police Service will be handing tickets, even if what drivers are doing isn’t distracted at all.
Casey Flesh-Hacker, 19-year-old home installer, said he was pulled over early in September for taking a sip of water from a bottle that, according to Calgary police, was “impeding his view of the roadway.”
“They pulled me over to issue a warning. I thought it was pointless.” said Flesh-Hacker.
Of those surveyed, 64 per cent said they were concerned that the law is too “vague” and that they weren’t provided enough information on what exactly constitutes distracted driving.
Jason Lavoie, a 26-year-old graphic designer, is among many who have doubts.
“Is it a cash grab to get the guy changing his songs at a red light, or a legit attempt to prosecute the idiot swerving on the road texting?”
“I’m confused as to exactly what distracted driving is,” said Emily Colluney, travel and tourism student at SAIT. “Does it deal with just electronics or can I eat, drink coffee, change the volume on my radio?”
Alberta Transportation’s website, in the frequently asked questions section, notes that “drinking beverages, such as coffee, water or pop” along with “eating a snack” are allowed while driving.
However, the site states that the final decision on whether to slap a fine on a driver or not lies with local law enforcement.
“We can certainly use our discretion,” said Const. Jim Lebedeff of the Calgary Police Service’s Traffic Education Unit, who has personally handed out a number of warnings and tickets.
“We don’t want people to get hurt or killed when they should be concentrating on their driving,” Lebedeff said in an interview. “Driving is definitely a full time job.”
Brendin Townsend, a 19-year-old shop hand, expressed a concern with the validity of the Calgary Police Service’s warnings.
“A friend of mine was pulled over and given a warning about texting and driving,” said Townsend. “He had actually left his phone at work, and was driving standard.”
The fine for distracted driving is $172, made up of a fine of $150 plus the 15 per cent victims’ surcharge. There are no demerit points for this offence.
Drivers seen taking part in more serious or risky behaviors could be charged with ‘driving carelessly’ under the Traffic Safety Act, which carries a fine of $402 plus six demerit points.
“If they’re going to ban talking on the phone and driving, they need to ban talking to your passengers as well,” said Townsend.
For more information about the distracted driving laws, go to www.saferoads.alberta.ca.
Overall there were a lot of mixed reactions to the introduction of the Distracted Driving law in Calgary, what’s your take? Do you think the law is worth while? Is it even enforceable in your opinion? Do you think this is a law worth introducing or there other things worth focusing on? LET ME KNOW either here or @OtishaMarie on Twitter!