Edmonton

Texting making Edmonton roads 'extremely dangerous,' police chief says

Edmonton’s police chief believes it’s a matter of time before someone gets killed by someone texting on their phone while behind the wheel.

‘We can write tickets till our hands fall off,’ Chief Rod Knecht says

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

Edmonton's police chief believes it's a matter of time before someone gets killed by someone texting on their phone while behind the wheel.

"It seems pretty ridiculous to me," said Rod Knecht at a police commission meeting Thursday.

New numbers show that Edmonton police had written 5,585 tickets for distracted driving to the end of September this year.

That compares with 4,455 for the same period last year, representing an increase of just over 25 per cent.

Knecht described the upward trend as "extremely dangerous." The numbers continue to grow despite fines for distracted driving rising to $287 this year and the addition of three demerit points.

"People have to understand they're putting themselves in jeopardy and they're putting the travelling public in jeopardy," Knecht said.

Knecht explained that the vast majority of tickets issued in Edmonton are to people who are sending and receiving text messages, rather than those actually speaking on the phone.

Everyone on the road has seen people looking down in their lap instead of the road or sat behind a driver who doesn't move at an intersection when the light turns green, he said.

"You can stop at any intersection on your commute in the morning and you'll see somebody texting," said Knecht, noting he could write three or four tickets himself every morning on his commute.

He said while distracted drivers have caused crashes on Edmonton's roads, nobody has died as a result, to his knowledge.

The chief did not offer any official statistics, but said his officers believe younger drivers are the recipients the growing number of distracted driving tickets.

"As soon as they get the buzz or the notification, they're on it again responding to that, so it's this immediate gratification type of thing that is a challenge for us," he said.

Even with more than $1.6 million in tickets issued so far this year, drivers continue to care more about their phones than the road, Knecht said.

"We can write tickets till our hands fall off," said Knecht, who said police will continue to do what they can through enforcement and public education to get the message through.

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