The head of Edmonton’s police force wasted no time Monday in coming forward with his ideas to increase pressure on distracted drivers, by adding more penalties.
Currently, drivers caught using hand held electronics such as cell phones, laptops, GPS units, reading, writing, grooming and eating can face a fine of $172 – however, police said more than a year and a half since it came into effect, it hasn’t affected drivers enough to get them to stop.
“We are writing traffic tickets until our arms get sore frankly,” Police Chief Rod Knecht said, after speaking at the International Conference on Urban Traffic Safety at the Shaw Conference Centre Monday.
Distracted driving was one of the topics at the conference Monday morning – and it’s where Knecht made a public plea for legislative change.
Knecht said he wants the province to add demerits for distracted driving violations.
It’s a possibility Alberta Transportation said it’s looking into, however, since the law went into effect on September 1, 2011, the focus has been on raising awareness and educating drivers.
“Our efforts are really focused on enforcement, on working with communities and of course on advertising campaigns that change attitudes,” Donna Babchishin with Albertan Transportation said.
As for feedback from delegates hailing from all over the world, the idea has some support, but for Knecht, he’s worried about what can happen if drivers continue to drive while distracted.
“How would it be if somebody lost their life over just sending a text message?” Knecht said. “It seems absolutely ridiculous.”
With files from Serena Mah