Calgary distracted driver tickets jump despite higher fines

Calgary traffic police say they're on track to hand out about 1,000 more distracted drivers this year than last, even though the fine has jumped to $287 from $172.

Police say they are handing out more tickets every year

Calgary Police say higher fines are not stopping drivers from using their phones. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

​It has been more than six months since Calgary police started handing out fatter tickets to distracted drivers — but they're still not getting it.

"We haven't seen it make a huge difference other than people's reaction when they actually get the ticket," said Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey with the police traffic section.

While the fine for using handheld devices while operating a vehicle, bicycle or motorcycle jumped from $172 to $287 in May, Stacey says the force is on track to hand out 1,000 more tickets this year than last.

"I'm seeing it a lot and, frankly, I see more of it, it seems, when I'm not in my police car," he said.

Calgary police have written nearly 29,000 tickets since distracted driving legislation was introduced in Alberta in 2011. 

"It's trending higher, about 1,000 more enforcement tickets are issued each year ... year over year," Stacey said.

Excuses, excuses

The main culprits are people on their cellphones, but Calgary police have also fined drivers playing on an iPad or gaming device.

Stacey says the most common excuses he hears from distracted drivers are:

  • "I didn't know I couldn't text while I was at a red light."
  • "Someone called me. I didn't call them."
  • "I was just making a quick call."
  • "I was checking my phone to verify an address."
In Alberta, it's illegal to hold a cell phone for any amount of time while driving. (CBC)

Higher demerit points still not in effect

Along with hiking fines, the previous Conservative government toughened up the law this spring by penalizing distracted drivers three demerit points.

However, Stacey says that's still not in effect.

"Because of the change in government... and the processes involved we haven't seen those demerits yet. However, we expect that by the new year, we will see those demerits in play."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?