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New Alberta law set to target distracted drivers

Holly Hubinon of The Source/Photo Plus wears the Jabra hands-free device.

Fort Macleod RCMP will be watching for drivers who are breaking the new distracted drivers law that comes into effect Thursday, Sept. 1.
The law, new to Alberta and the most comprehensive distracted driving legislation in Canada, prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones for talking or texting while driving.
It also prohibits the use of other electronic devices, reading, writing, and personal grooming while driving.
“The members will be on the lookout now,” Fort Macleod RCMP Cpl. Bryan Mucha said. We’ll be looking for it for sure.”
Mucha is concerned that, since cell phone use while driving is now against the law, some drivers might try to hide cell phone use while driving.
Mucha advises drivers to heed the new legislation.
“It’s a good law,” Mucha said. “Hopefully people will pay attention.”
The fine for breaking the new law is $172. Offenders face additional charges if they commit other traffic violations such as running a red light or making an improper lane change.
Drivers can also be charged under existing legislation for driving without due care and attention, a more serious offence with a fine of $402 and six demerit points.
The legislation permits the use of cell phones or radio communication devices only by means of hands-free or voice-activated equipment.
Drivers may also use a hand-held citizen’s band (CB) or two-way radio when escorting oversized vehicles, to contact their employer, or when participating in search, rescue and emergency management.
So far, The Source/Photo Plus in Fort Macleod has not had many customers coming in for hands-free devices.
“We’ve sold some, there’s been some interest, but it’s been marginal,” The Source/Video Plus co-owner Cindy Brown said. “People are asking, but not necessarily buying at this point.”
Brown said the Bluetooth hands-free devices sell for from $50 to $100.
To help Albertans prepare for the new law, the province will run a public education and awareness campaign. Advertisements that provide information about the law and how to comply with it will run in newspapers, radio and on-line.
“This legislation gives law enforcement agencies in Alberta an additional tool to help make our roads safer,” Solicitor General Frank Oberle said. “We are sending an extremely strong traffic safety message to motorists across the province: When you’re in your vehicle, your focus must be on driving.”
Several international studies show that 20 to 30 per cent of all collisions involve distracted drivers, and also that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers.
Further information about the new legislation is available on the Alberta Transportation Web site at www.transportation.alberta.ca/distracteddriving.htm.

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