What to Know About Alberta’s Distracted Driving Laws

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 collisions in Alberta. In addition to being unsafe, distracted driving is costly as violation tickets start at $300 and three demerit points.

A willingness to follow the rules is positive; but like many laws, distracted driving legislation is difficult to access and understand. This leaves many ordinary Albertans in the dark as to what counts as distracted driving and what doesn’t. Obeying the law is notoriously 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”).    

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.    

How Do The Distracted Driving Laws Work?

  • 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.

What Are Examples of Distracted Driving?

The following only applies to private citizens driving privately owned vehicles. The TSA makes special exceptions for emergency personnel, emergency vehicles, and certain drivers employed in the transportation and telecommunication industries.    

  • Distracted driving laws forbid drivers from doing all of 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,
    • writing,
    • 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 Am I Allowed To Do While Driving in Alberta?

  • using a cell phone in hands-free mode – 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,
  • smoking,
  • talking,
  • 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. 

Secure the Results You Deserve

Injuries that result from distracted driving have serious implications. In many of our cases, the settlement we’re fighting for will provide for accident victims and their families’ lifelong needs. If you or a loved one are in this situation, you should be seeking legal advice from a team with proven results; your future depends on it.

James H. Brown and Associates has helped our clients secure complete, fair accident injury settlements, including numerous precedent-setting cases that continue to set standards in Alberta courts. Our team is committed to standing up for our clients in Grande Prairie and across Alberta, continually raising the bar for injury settlements.

*Results vary according to the facts in each case. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results.

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured By A Distracted Driver?

Based in Edmonton, James H. Brown and Associates are proud to stand up for your rights no matter where you are in Alberta. Book a free, no-obligation consultation today; our team will reach out in-person, by telephone, or online to help get you started on the path to justice.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with James H. Brown and Associates’ Alberta injury lawyers.

related post