Resolve to give up texting while driving, urges Edmonton traffic cop

An Edmonton police sergeant is urging motorists make a New Year's resolution to give up texting and driving in 2017.

'It's very hard to get people's minds around to actually just taking that behaviour seriously and dropping it'

'You can stop at any intersection on your commute in the morning and you’ll see somebody texting,' Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said in November, noting he could write three or four tickets himself every morning on his commute. (Tom Boland/The Canadian Press)

An Edmonton police traffic sergeant has a New Year's resolution suggestion for drivers: give up texting while driving, 

"The phenomenon of texting and driving has taken a foothold and it's very hard to get people's minds around to actually just taking that behaviour seriously and dropping it until you're safely off the road or parked," said Sgt. Kerry Bates, with the traffic services division.

The penalty for distracted driving, which includes texting, using hand-held cellphones, reading, writing, or personal grooming, is a $287 fine and three demerit points.

"It just comes down to a personal decision that people have to make whether it's a case of them getting a scare by a close call," Bates said.

"Hopefully it doesn't take a tragic collision for them to change their behaviour and ruin the rest of their lives."

Any initiative worth trying

A growing number of police forces in Canada are taking to public transit to catch distracted drivers

"Any initiative is worth researching and possibly trying," he said.

"It doesn't have to be a bus, as long as you have that height advantage to look down into the vehicle it would work," he said.

It may take years for the message about distracted driving to get through to drivers, much the same way as it was with seatbelts when they became mandatory in 1987, Bates added.

"In the case of seatbelts, it's gotten a lot better I think over the years. You don't see as many people driving around without their belts done up." 

New technology that would disable a cellphone, or only allow bluetooth, once a vehicle is turned on may also help reduce distracted driving in the future, he said.

In the meantime, a New Year's Resolution would be a good start, Bates said.

"They can keep smoking this year and perhaps give up texting and driving," he said.