Despite being in place for almost a decade, there is confusion surrounding Alberta’s distracted driving laws. Distracted driving legislation is central to Alberta’s safe roads initiative with substantial law enforcement resources dedicated to enforcing these laws. It is critical each of us understand and follow distracted driving laws as a significant proportion of traffic accidents are caused by distracted drivers.
Research shows that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in collisions than attentive drivers, and distracted driving plays a role in 20 to 30 percent of all car accidents in Alberta. In addition to being unsafe, distracted driving is costly as violation tickets start at $300 and three demerit points.
Contact an Experienced Alberta Injury Lawyer Soon After the Accident
If you were involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be eligible for compensation over and above what the insurance company is offering.
It is prudent to call an experienced personal injury lawyer soon after you have been hit by a distracted driver. If your lawyer can prove that a driver was distracted prior to causing an accident, they can use this evidence to prove negligence placing fault on the distracted driver.
Note that you must act quickly as evidence fades, and proof that a driver was distracted may only be available for a short time after the accident. Upon contacting a personal injury lawyer, they will request the police file and reach out to any witnesses who can attest to the fact that the driver was in fact distracted.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
A willingness to follow the rules is positive; but like many laws, distracted driving legislation is difficult to access and understand. This leaves ordinary Albertans in the dark as to what counts as distracted driving and what doesn’t. Obeying the law is difficult if you can’t access and interpret legislation. This is where the precedent-setting team at James H. Brown and Associates can help. Just as we do with accident injury law, let us explain your rights and obligations under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act (“TSA”).
Application of the TSA and Distracted Driving
In what follows, we will dispel some myths around distracted driving and shed some light on what you can, and can’t do, behind the wheel.
- Distracted driving laws apply to all “vehicles” on all “highways” in Alberta.
- The TSA defines “vehicles” as a “device in, on or by which a person or thing may be transported or drawn on a highway.” If you’re scratching your head at this definition, you are not alone. The legislature drafted this provision deliberately broad and ambiguously in order to catch new and emerging forms of transportation. It is safe to say that cars, ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds, and horse draw carriages are caught by distracted driving laws. E-scooters and e-bikes would likely be caught by the law. As for regular bicycles, they may or may not be considered vehicles. Your best bet is to play it safe and not text and bike. A horse (without a carriage) would not be considered a vehicle nor would a skateboard, scooter, mobility aide, or rollerblades.
- The definition of “highway” is expansive. It includes any street, road, trail, driveway, bridge, sidewalk, alley, or ditch (assuming the ditch is parallel to a roadway). Private ownership of a road does not impact its status as a “highway” under the TSA.
- Note – distracted driving laws apply whether you are stopped at a red light or moving with traffic.
Examples of Distracted Driving
The following only applies to private citizens driving privately owned vehicles. The TSA makes exceptions for emergency personnel, emergency vehicles, and certain drivers employed in the transportation and telecommunication industries.
Distracted driving laws prohibit drivers from doing all the following:
- using hand-held cell phones,
- texting or e-mailing,
- using laptops, video games consoles, cameras, entertainment displays, and programming portable audio devices,
- entering information on GPS units,
- reading printed or electronic materials,
- brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, hair styling, clipping nails or shaving, and
- attending to your pet.
- You could also be charged with distracted driving if you permit something, or someone, to interfere with your access to vehicle controls or the safe operation of the vehicle.
- If you permit your vision to be obstructed in any direction while operating a vehicle, you can be charged with distracted driving. This means you must clear snow and ice from your windows prior to driving.
What You Can do Behind the Wheel
- using a cell phone in hands-free mode – if the device is not held in the driver’s hand and is activated by voice or a single touch,
- drinking non-alcoholic beverages,
- eating a snack,
- listening to music through headphones as long as you don’t touch the device while driving,
- calling emergency services with a hand-held phone, and
- you can look at a GPS navigation system as long as the system is attached to the vehicle and programmed before you begin driving. You cannot hold the unit or enter information while driving- unless information is entered by voice recognition.