Put the phone away, playtime’s over.
That’s the message from Calgary police who are witnessing more and more drivers turning back to dangerous habits behind the wheel ‘ namely, talking or texting on their cellphone.
“What I’m seeing is (texting) at the red lights,” said Const. Jim Lebedeff. “People are looking down. I don’t know too many people who stare at their crotches while they drive.”
Handheld usage behind the wheel became scarce during what Lebedeff calls the “big push” following the introduction of Alberta’s distracted driving legislation Sept. 1, 2011.
Through three months of enforcing the new law, Calgary police doled out about 950 tickets ‘ that number could rise slightly once final computer data is entered ‘ more than double Edmonton’s citation count.
But critics were quick to point out the number of tickets issued province-wide falls short of the pace set by provinces like British Columbia and Ontario, which both introduced similar legislation in 2010 and 2009.
“If you go out there you could probably find more than they (police) got,” said Louis Francescutti, founder of the Alberta-based Coalition for Cellphone-Free Driving, which has pushed for a ban of both handheld and hands-free devices in vehicles.
Don Szarko, spokesperson for the Alberta Motor Association, which supported the new legislation, says his organization has fielded numerous calls from motorists frustrated by “inconsistent” enforcement.
“That’s surefire recipe for failure with a new piece of legislation,” he said.
Lebedeff said the number of violations was actually higher than he would like to see. Most officers rarely issues warnings to violators now ‘ common practice when the law was first introduced ‘ and additional enforcement measures are being considered to coincide with distracted driving month in February.