Canada has been at war with ‘distracted driving’ – those things that distract drivers when operating their vehicles, such as texting and talking on your mobile device. The Government has tried everything – added fines, increased fines, added demerits and even included jail time as a possibility – to discourage the use of mobile devices while driving. Yet for all of their efforts, Calgary police are on track to hand out 1,000 more tickets this year than last! The fines jumped from $172 to $287 in May for using a handheld device while not only operating a vehicle, but also a motorcycle and even a bicycle. Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey with the police traffic section said, “We haven’t seen it make a huge difference other than people’s reaction when they actually get the ticket. I’m seeing it a lot and, frankly, I see more of it, it seems, when I’m not in my police car.”
Despite their efforts, the Calgary police have written almost 29,000 tickets for distracted driving since the law was enacted in 2011. Officer Stacey said the number of tickets seems to go up by 1,000 each year, with most people getting fined for using their mobile phone, but the police also catch them playing on a tablet or gaming device. He said the most popular excuses are – “I didn’t know I couldn’t text while I was at a red light,” or “Somebody called me. I didn’t call them,” or “I was just making a quick call,” and “I was checking my phone to verify an address.” Do these sound all too familiar?
Another way to really hit the offenders is through Canada’s demerit system – those demerit points can cost a driver higher insurance rates, among other things. In the pipeline it has been agreed that distracted driving will result in three demerits, but still after two years those have not yet taken effect. But Stacey says, “Because of the change in government… and the processes involved we haven’t seen those demerits yet. However, we expect that by the new year, we will see those demerits in play.” It will be interesting to see if adding the demerits to their already steeper fines will have a real impact on people using their cellphone while driving.