Alberta's distracted driving law passes in the legislature
Talking on your cellphone behind the wheel will be illegal once Alberta's distracted driving law comes into effect next summer.
The distracted driving legislation passed third reading in the Alberta Legislature Wednesday.
Police will soon be able to ticket distracted motorists caught in the act of talking on cellphones, texting, grooming and reading while behind the wheel.
Violators will be slapped with a $172 ticket per offence, with no demerit points.
Politicians are calling this the most comprehensive distracted driving law in Canada. Although Calgary Tory MLA Art Johnston, who spearheaded the legislation, admits there is a bit of a grey zone when it comes to the law.
"If you're eating a cheeseburger I wouldn't recommend it but you might get a ticket based on how big it is and how long it takes you to eat it," he said.
Hands-free devices and C.B. radios are allowed under the legislation. Police and other emergency responders are also exempt.
Dr. Louis Francescutti thinks it's a mistake to allow Albertans to use hands-free devices. He says studies have shown them to be just as dangerous as hand-held phones.
"In essence what we're doing is we're telling Albertans it's OK to go out and do something dangerous," said Francescutti, head of Canada's Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The province's transportation minister has admitted that the devices are still a distraction but says there is simply no way to enforce a ban on the use of hands-free devices.
"I do have a hands-free unit in my vehicle and hopefully I will talk less on it," said Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette.
And when it comes to police enforcing the legislation, the minister says he can't tell police how to do their job. But he has stressed he doesn't want the legislation to be a cash cow for officers and he doesn't want them hiding behind billboards trying to catch violators.
The province has indicated a public education and awareness program will be launched.
With files from Scott Roberts