Demerits: The New Distracted Driving DeterrentThe Province of Alberta is taking a more aggressive stance against distracted driving. Bill 204, also known as the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving Demerit) Amendment Act (the “Act”), was introduced to the legislature as a private member’s bill in December 2014 and was granted Royal Assent at the end of March. The Act comes into force on proclamation, which could be any day now.

Currently, distracted driving legislation in Alberta restricts drivers from acts that take away a drivers’ due care and attention to driving, including but not limited to using a handheld cell phone, personal grooming, entering information on GPS units and reading. Currently, an offence in contravention of these rules results in a $172 fine. However, the Act amends the Traffic Safety Act and will increase the fines for drivers found guilty of a distracted driving offence to $250 with the addition of 3 demerit points. If a driver accumulates 15 or more demerits points within a two-year period on their driving record, their license will automatically be suspended for one month.

These stricter consequences will hopefully reduce the number of distracted driving offences. In 2014, there were 25,913 convictions for distracted driving in Alberta (96% of these offences were for the use of a hand-held electronic device while driving). Alberta Transportation says distracted drivers are three times more likely to get into an accident than alert drivers, and driver inattention contributes to approximately 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year.