Distracted driving convictions down in Calgary, up in Edmonton over last 5 years

Calgary has nearly halved its number of distracted driving convictions in the past five years, while the number of convictions in Edmonton has increased.

Here's a look at some distracted driving numbers across the province

Persons holds a phone while driving.
The number of distracted drivers in Calgary has gone down over the past five years, while Edmonton's numbers have gone up. (David Horemans/CBC)

Calgary has nearly halved its number of distracted driving convictions in the past five years, while the number of convictions in Edmonton increased in the same time period.

Calgary had 4,395 distracted driving convictions for the year ending March 31, 2019, at a rate of 45.3 per 10,000 licenced drivers, according to data released by the province last week.

That's down from 7,713 convictions, a rate of 77.6, in Calgary in 2015.

The total convictions in Edmonton were up to 5,811 last year, a rate of 83 per 10,000 licenced drivers — a roughly 42 per cent increase from 2015.

It was the only city in the province where the number of convictions increased over that period.

But Edmonton was far from the highest, with rates of 95.8 per 10,000 drivers in Medicine Hat and 105 per 10,000 in Lethbridge.

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

What were drivers doing?

The vast majority of convictions were people using hand-held communication devices (aka cell phones), but there were also some more unusual charges.

Last year, police across the province charged:

  • 13 people for reading while driving.
  • Three people for doing personal grooming while driving.
  • One person for writing while driving (when inspiration strikes...)
  • 14 people for plugging an address into a GPS device while driving (Alberta is the only province where this is explicitly banned).
  • Four people for other distracting activities that weren't specified (thoughts on what these drivers were doing are welcomed in the comment section).

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

Teens, seniors have lower rates

If your first assumption was that teens are the worst texting-and-driving culprits, think again.

Drivers aged 16-17 actually had one of the lowest rates of distracted driving, at 4.2 per 1,000 licenced drivers. That's second only to drivers 65 and up, at a rate of 1.9. 

The worst? Drivers aged 30-34, at a rate of 10.7 per 1,000 licenced drivers.

More men were also convicted of distracted driving last year than women — 14,474 men across the province, compared to 8,964 women.

That gender imbalance has stayed fairly consistent over the past five years.

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

Distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21 per cent of fatal collisions and 27 per cent of serious injury collisions across Canada in 2016, according to Transport Canada's National Collision Database.

The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is a $287 fine and three licence demerit points.

Distracted driving laws first came into effect in the province in 2011.