Alberta Transportation Minister Announces Tougher Penalties for Distracted Drivers


Starting January 1, 2016, Alberta drivers caught driving while distracted will end up paying a $287 fine and get three demerit points on top of that, the Transportation Minister Brian Mason has announced (via CBC News).

The tougher measures have come into force after it became evident that drivers were returning to their “old habits” and not paying attention while driving. Back in 2011 when new fines were introduced, distracted driving dropped. Fast forward to today, and distracted driving has emerged again as a major issue.

Transportation Minister Brian Mason says the message is not getting through and tougher sanctions are needed. He said it’s “a top priority.”

“People continue to drive while distracted on our roads and highways,” he said in a news conference in Edmonton Thursday. “This is unacceptable and puts everyone on the road at risk.”

To back his claim, the minister pointed to government statistics: There had been nearly 80,000 convictions since Alberta began levying fines on distracted drivers up until this March. Also, there were 27,417 convictions for distracted driving in the 2014–2015 year, up 5% compared to a year earlier.

During his speech, the Transportation Minister was joined by crash victim Renaye Wade, who was left in a coma for roughly a month after her car was hit by a distracted driver. She called the new penalties a “start for Alberta.”

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  • Tim Stewart

    In my observations, the reduction in distracted driving when the new legislation (covering the same things that existing laws covered) here in Alberta seemed to have more to do with the problem initially being brought to the forefront of public attention rather than the threat of a fine or demerits. Part of the increase is likely the broadening enforcement of the legislation over time as it becomes a more entrenched tool for law enforcement.

    IMO these increases, and their announcements, are “low hanging fruit” actions akin to the security theatre at airports. They know it really isn’t going to have a significant effect, but it will appear as if they are addressing a “new” problem and with small effort to implement. I rarely hear of anyone complaining about the cost of the fine or even demerits, but rather that they were caught at all.

    I hope that this has the result of again making the problem a topic of conversation and reduces the instances again, for a while at least. We need to keep the educational messages as an ongoing effort, not just a year-end “look at how safety focused we are” presentation.

  • xxxJDxxx

    I see this along the same lines as speeding. The number of bills handed out is going to be proportional to the time spent enforcing it. As soon as they aren’t there everyone will return to speeding and looking at their phones.