Distracted-driving demerits seen as counterbalance to social-media 'addiction'
Calgary police handed out 8,200 distracted driving tickets in 2015 , but now they come with 3 demerits
Remember: The new year brings with it new penalties for distracted driving.
Texting behind the wheel or otherwise occupying yourself with tasks other than watching the road will now land you three demerit points in addition to a $287 fine.
The new, stiffer penalties came into effect Jan. 1.
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Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey said Calgary police welcome the addition of demerits to the penalties, which he described as the "last piece of the legislation that was missing" since Alberta first introduced fines for distracted driving in 2011.
"What we've seen so far is the fines clearly aren't enough, because we have continued to write more tickets every single year since the legislation first came into effect," he said.
Calgary police say they have written more than 30,000 distracted driving tickets to date — including 8,200 in 2015.
Across Alberta, there was a total of 87,633 distracted-driving convictions between the introduction of the law in September 2011 and March 2015, according to the provincial government.
Of those, about 98 per cent were for drivers using a mobile phone or other type of electronic device while behind the wheel.
A handful were for other types of distractions such as reading, writing and personal grooming.
Deterrence vs. social media 'addiction'
Stacey said the introduction of demerits can be significant as a deterrent because they can affect a driver's insurance rate and even lead to a licence suspension.
It takes 15 total demerits for a licence to be suspended, or eight demerits for a graduated driver's licence.
Stacey said the stiffer fines are also needed to counteract the increasingly strong temptation drivers have to use their mobile phones while behind the wheel, instead of waiting a few minutes until they are in a safer position to make a call or respond to a text or check social media.
"It's become a bit of an addiction to be connected all the time," Stacey said.
"People just feel like, if that phone buzzes or rings or whatever, they just have to pick it up."