It’s been four years since Alberta changed its distracted driving law to include a higher fine and demerit points, which should have been enough to deter vehicle operators from ever bringing out their hand-held devices when behind the wheel. But unfortunately, it still happens, and people are still being caught.
Studies conclusively show that distracted driving is extremely dangerous – in fact, it is even more dangerous than driving under the influence. Texting and driving is six times more likely to result in an accident than drunk driving, which is an incredible fact. Neither should ever be done, of course, but sadly distracted driving remains far more common than insurance companies would hope for.
Texting and driving is by far the most common type of distracted driving, with 18,659 offences recorded in 2017/2018. This makes up about 79% of the total of 23,546 tickets handed out over those 12 months. Although the numbers are actually lower than previous years, this is still an astonishing amount. In all reality, those Albertans who were charged should count themselves lucky that they don’t live in provinces like Ontario and Manitoba. Alberta’s current $287 fine and three-demerit point penalty are unlikely to break the bank or cause the loss of driving privileges. But in Ontario and Manitoba fines for first offences are at $1,000 and $700, respectively, and the charge also includes a three-day license suspension. In Ontario, second and third convictions within five years see fines double and then triple, and there is also a six-demerit point penalty incurred each time. Drivers lose their license for seven days following the second conviction, and for 30 days following the third.
Insurance companies, with their years of experience, are more than keenly aware of the fact that distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents. Studies show that it takes only three seconds of inattention for an accident to occur, which is about the time it takes to turn the ignition key to start your vehicle. Considering the fact that this is less than the amount of time it takes to send someone a simple “hi” via text, insurance companies are cracking down on those who have been caught distracted behind the wheel in ways you might not have expected.
Distracted Driving Could Mean the End of Your Coverage
A CBC.ca article posted in September 2019 titled “Albertans with distracted driving tickets are finding it hard to get car insurance” tells of how car insurance brokers such as us at Lane’s are hearing more and more from drivers who are having a hard time renewing their insurance because of a distracted driving ticket. Consumers are telling of incidences where they had their collision and comprehensive coverage removed while their rates were also increased considerably – some say as much as 25%. Insurance companies are taking distracted driving tickets very seriously, which is added incentive to keep your phone at a distance from the moment you unlock your door to when you shut off your engine.
Alberta legislation mandates that drivers must carry liability and accidents benefits coverage. If you are found at fault for an accident, your liability coverage provides compensation for damages (or injuries) you have caused to others and/or their property. Accident benefits coverage provides access to medical treatment for drivers and their passengers for injuries incurred at your hands as a driver. Collision and comprehensive coverage are actually not mandated by any law in Alberta, which has come as a nasty surprise to those convicted of distracted driving and looking to continue their insurance. To add to the pain, comprehensive and collision coverage are mandatory if your vehicle is financed – which how the vast majority of drivers manage to afford their vehicles. So not only could you lose the bulk of your coverage with a distracted driving ticket, you could also lose your financing. Which essentially means you will lose your vehicle, too.
If you have accident or other offences on your record, you can almost expect that this will happen to you. Under Alberta law, you could be charged with distracted driving if you do any of the following while behind the wheel:
- Use a handheld cell phone in any way
- Compose emails or text messages; the law applies even if you are stopped at a stop sign or red light
- Use any type of electronic equipment while the vehicle is in motion (including MP3 players, laptop computers, cameras and GPS units, among others)
- Read, write or draw while driving
- Groom oneself while driving (including flossing, fixing hair, applying makeup, etc.)
Keep in mind that police officers have a lot of leeway when it comes to charging for distracted driving. Even if you are not engaged in any of the above activities, if you are spotted not paying attention while behind the wheel you could be charged.
Can’t Find Insurance? Brokers Are Your Best Bet
Insurance brokers are specialists at finding coverage for high-risk drivers who have major convictions on their record. If you are considered a high-risk driver, your insurance company may choose to not to renew your policy or cancel it outright, and many will not insure you at all. Brokers have privileged relationships with insurance companies, and we may be able to negotiate coverage that might not otherwise be offered to you.
At Lane’s Insurance, we believe that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to car insurance. If you’re struggling to find an insurance company that will cover you, or if you’re stuck in a situation where your insurance company keeps jacking up your rates or refuses to renew your policy, contact a Lane’s Insurance representative. We’ll work closely with you to ensure your coverage needs are met at a price you can afford, giving you the chance to prove yourself through responsible behaviour and enjoy the lower rates that come with reduced risk.