Distracted Driving in Alberta

Person texting on cellphone while driving a vehicle

Did you know that it takes an average of three seconds after a driver’s mind is taken off the road for an accident to occur?

While human beings are good at keeping up with modern technology, we are still not that great at multitasking – especially when it comes to driving cars. With all of the advanced tech injected into newer vehicles nowadays, you’d think we’d have hands-free control over everything, allowing us to pay full attention to our driving and the road. However, many accidents are still being caused by distracted driving and authorities across the country have started cracking down on distracted drivers.

In an effort to curb this risky and dangerous habit, authorities have begun issuing traffic tickets that come with significant fines and consequences. Not only does a distracted driving ticket lose you money and demerit points, but it can also have a drastically negative effect on your vehicle’s insurance policy as well. 

Keep reading to learn more about what distracted driving is and how it can affect your insurance.

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What is Distracted Driving?

In the province of Alberta, the distracted driving law applies to all vehicles and restricts drivers from engaging in distracting activities while operating their vehicles – even if they are stopped at a red light.

Distracting activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Using a hand-held cell phone, texting, or emailing
  • Using laptops, computers, video games, cameras, and portable audio players
  • Entering information into a GPS unit
  • Reading, writing, printing, or sketching
  • Personal grooming such as putting on makeup, doing hair, flossing teeth or clipping nails

Distracted driving also includes diverting your attention to a pet, placing anything in the passenger seat that interferes with the vehicle’s controls, and allowing anything to obstruct your line of vision in any direction.

What are the Legal Penalties for Distracted Driving?

Even if the above activities do not directly impact your driving performance, you can still be charged for distracted driving. Additionally, if you commit a moving violation while distracted, you could end up with two tickets – one for distracted driving and the other for the moving violation.

Although distracted driving is not a major conviction in Alberta it is considered a regular traffic violation. You can face criminal charges if your distracted driving leads to the death or injury of another person.

In Alberta, the penalty for distracted driving is a $300 fine and 3 demerit points.

How Does Distracted Driving Impact Your Insurance?

Stressed young woman holding paper document

The number of distracted driving offenses continues to rise but that makes them no less dangerous. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, nearly 80% of collisions and 65% of near-crashes can be attributed to driver inattention.

Because distracted driving is dangerous, insurance companies view this violation as a risk. As a result, if you have a distracted driving violation on your record, you could face the following:

  • A significant rise in your premiums
  • A restriction in coverage options
  • A restriction in payment options

In Alberta, traffic violation tickets directly affect your insurance premiums. All it takes is one ticket for your rates to increase by up to 50%. You may also lose any clean driving record discounts offered by your insurance company.

After incurring a distracted driving violation on your record, your insurance company will likely deny you full coverage on your vehicle when the policy is up for renewal and only offer you mandatory coverage. This may not seem like a big deal, but it could affect your ability to finance a newer vehicle since financing companies require full coverage before they will lend you the money.

Finally, you may no longer be eligible for a payment plan with your insurance company. Instead, you may have to pay your annual premiums in one lump sum.

The long-term penalties of distracted driving are steep, but are drivers expected to clamp their hands on the steering and lock their eyes on the road the entire time they are driving? Expecting this seems unreasonable, but there are activities you can engage in while operating your vehicle that not specifically restricted under law.

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What Can I Do In My Car?

Keep in mind that although these activities are not penalized under law, that you should always be careful when removing your eyes or attention from the road – even for a brief second.

Here are some things you can do in your car without fear of a ticket or penalty:

  • Use a cell phone in hands-free mode 
  • Use a hands-free earphone such as Bluetooth
  • Drink non-alcoholic beverages
  • Eat a snack
  • Smoke legal substances
  • Talk with passengers
  • Listen to a portable audio player, as long as it’s set up before you begin driving
  • Call 911 with a hand-held cell phone
  • Use two-way radios when required to remain in contact with an employer
  • Display screens that require no hands-on operation, such as a pre-programmed GPS display (affixed to the vehicle), collision avoidance system, or dispatch system for transporting passengers

Remember that distracted driving is not only caused by preoccupying your hands or taking your eyes off the road. A heated conversation with someone on a hands-free device, for example, can be enough to distract your brain from driving.

Distracted Driving is Not Worth the Risk

It’s easy to see that getting caught for distracted driving is not worth the risk. Not only are you putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers in danger, but you are also putting your finances at risk. Tickets will increase your insurance rates because you are statistically more likely to be in another accident, especially when it comes to a distracted driving violation.

While our first piece of advice to you is to not drive while distracted. If you do get a distracted driving ticket and you’re worried about how it will affect your insurance, feel free to talk to one of our expert and knowledgeable insurance brokers.

Our team at Capital Insurance is here to answer all of your insurance questions – get a free quote today!