Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she's open to talking about imposing demerit points on drivers convicted of distracted driving.
The idea was first raised by Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson, who suggested current fines are not working and drivers are much more likely to comply if they risk higher insurance rates and the possibility of losing their licences.
Redford, talking to reporters in Calgary on Wednesday, said it's an idea worth considering.
"If chiefs are telling us that the regulatory regime is not having the impact that we want it to, which is to stop people from undertaking distracted activities, then I think it is important to take a look at that, but without more information, I wouldn’t say more."
The Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act came into force a year ago. It prohibits a raft of activities while driving or cycling, including:
- Holding, viewing or talking on a hand-held cellphone, or texting or emailing
- Having a TV, computer or other display screen within view
- Manually operating a GPS device
- Reading books, newspapers or other texts, as well as writing or sketching
- Personal grooming
There are exemptions. Drivers can use a GPS device if it’s voice-activated or if they programmed it before starting their trip. Viewing a car’s instrument gauges and status screens is allowed. And it’s still legal to use radios for certain kinds of emergency, safety or delivery tasks, or to use a cellphone or radio to call 911.
A violation does not result in demerits on a driver's licence and won’t appear on a driving abstract. Alberta also has a more general statutory offence of driving without due care and attention, which carries a fine of $402 and six demerit points.
Calgary police wrote 4,688 tickets for distracted driving between Oct. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012