Alberta to ban hand-held cellphones

Alberta drivers will soon be banned from talking, texting or tweeting on their hand-held cellphones. They also cannot do any sort of personal grooming while behind the wheel under a distracted driving bill that was introduced April 14, 2010.

This new legislation that is proposed, Bill 16 will amend the Traffic Safety Amendment Act. Drivers will be fined $172 as a result of using hand-held cellphones, MP3 players and other electronic devices. All these are seen as distractions while driving.

This new bill goes further. It includes in the ban reading, writing and grooming. This will make it the most comprehensive type of ban for distracted driving in North America.

Distracted drivers have not been a big issue in Alberta. While most of the provinces have seen fit to put bans in place, Alberta was in no hurry to restrict texting and driving or the use of hand held cellphones.

Alberta waited to see what amendments were made in other provinces. Premier Ed Stelmach wanted penalties when put in place that are enforcable. This should prevent people from challenging and overturning the ruling in the courts.

The founder of the Coalition for Cellphone-Free Driving, Dr. Louis Francescuitti is an Edmonton emergency physician. Francescuitti has said that research has clearly shown that talking and texting while driving is dangerous. He wants a complete ban on cellphone use for motorists, including the hands-free mode.

Private companies in Alberta are increasingly banning cellphone use and texting for their employees. For some companies the rule is that if you get into an accident while on the cellphone then you are fired.

Reports from Newfoundland and Labrador who put the ban in place on hand-held cellphones in 2003 show that the law has been successful in reducing accidents.

In 2003 the ban was first put in place and there were 131 convictions. In 2008-2009 there were 677 convictions. Accidents showed a drop from 802 in 2006 from 1,033 in the 2003-2004 year. The number of deaths, however, increased from to 11 from four.

The proposed legislation is expected to be debated in the legislature this fall.