Hellosafe.com recently released the results of a study revealing the distracted driving habits of drivers in four Canadian provinces. Accidents in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec were examined, and it was found that distracted driving was the cause in 35.2%, 25.2%, 21.8%, and 21% of incidences, respectively. Out of the 25.2% of distracted driving accidents in Alberta, 24.9% resulted in death.
In 2020 there were 21,612 convictions related to distracted driving in Alberta, a slight reduction from 2018, when 23,546 tickets were handed out. This is positive news that Albertans are beginning to understand just how dangerous distracted driving is, but authorities would like to see even more improvement. It only takes three seconds of distraction for an accident to happen, and the more accidents there are the harder it is for car insurance companies to keep rates affordable. Hellosafe.com estimates the cost of distracted driving to be close to $102 million per year for insurance companies, which means it’s in every driver’s best interest to stay aware and attentive when behind the wheel. Even though recent changes to how insurance claims are being paid out in Alberta should result in lower car insurance costs for most drivers, the market is still volatile and largely dependent on the actions of car owners. A culture that does not tolerate picking up a cell phone while operating a vehicle is what is necessary, experts say.
What constitutes distracted driving in Alberta
Distracted driving is defined by the Government of Alberta through the Traffic Safety Act, and the law applies to all roads in the province. If you perform any of the following activities while behind the wheel, you could be charged:
- Using a cell phone in any way
- Texting or checking emails
- Putting information into a GPS system
- Reading, writing, printing, or sketching
- Using any electronic device, such as a laptop computer, an MP3 player, a camera, and video games
- Performing any sort of personal grooming activities
The legislation around distracted driving is open-ended, which allows police officers to charge drivers even if their driving ability does not appear affected. In fact, you can be charged with distracted driving for any activity an officer deems to be distracting, such as a pet sitting in your lap, anything in the front part of your vehicle that does not provide proper access to controls, and failing to remove obstructions that do not allow for clear vision, such as not properly removing snow and ice from your windshield.
Other activities that are not restricted through Alberta’s distracted driving legislation include:
- Using a hands-free device that is voice activated
- Eating and drinking non-alcoholic beverages
- Conversing with passengers
- Listening to a portable audio player that was set up before you started driving
- Using a two-way radio
- Using a GPS system that was programmed before you started driving
- Using an alcohol ignition interlock device
The penalties of a distracted driving ticket
A distracted driving ticket in Alberta carries with it a $300 fine, and three demerit points will be added to your license. Depending on your driving record, this could result in an increase in your car insurance rates. If you accrue eight or more demerit points in any two-year period, you are at risk of having your license suspended. Repeat offenders could have their licenses revoked.
Many believe that even hands-free devices should not be used while driving, as they still cause a distraction, and that potentially an increase in penalties and fines could help be a further deterrent.
A distracted driving conviction can affect your insurance coverage
If you are ever tempted to quickly pick up your phone to check your texts or look up an address while driving, remember that the consequences of a distracted driving conviction can be severe. Drivers with a conviction may experience a difficult time renewing their insurance, with consumers reporting having had their collision and comprehensive coverage removed while their rates were 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. As mentioned, distracted driving is the cause of many serious accidents and does not reflect well on your sense of responsibility as a driver.
Alberta legislation mandates that drivers must carry liability and accident 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 also provides access to medical treatment for drivers and their passengers for injuries incurred at your hands as a driver.
In Alberta, collision and comprehensive coverage is not mandated by any law. This has been an unwelcome surprise to those convicted of distracted driving and looking to continue their insurance coverage. No comprehensive or collision insurance means that you will have to pay for all the repairs to your vehicle and others’ should you be found at-fault in an accident. If your vehicle is financed, comprehensive and collision coverage are mandatory. So, a distracted driving ticket could result in you losing the bulk of your insurance coverage and your financing, which may result in you losing your vehicle, too.
Having trouble with your car insurance coverage? Contact us at Lane’s
Insurance brokers such as us at Lane’s 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.
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 raising your rates or refuses to renew your policy, contact a Lane’s Insurance representative for assistance. By practicing responsible driving habits, your insurance rates should start to come down.