Alberta passes driver distraction law, but truckers can use CBs

| 12/6/2010

The Legislative Assembly of Alberta has passed a law that takes a comprehensive approach to distracted driving in the province. Included are restrictions on texting, e-mailing, use of laptop computers and electronic devices, and personal grooming, but the law allows for commercial drivers to use CB radios for work purposes.

Provincial Bill 16, which was introduced in April of this year, passed in the Assembly on Thursday, Dec. 2. Notably, as with other provinces and U.S. states enacting similar legislation, the Alberta law requires that the use of cellular phones while driving be hands-free.

Debate has arisen about language pertaining to two-way radios such as CBs.

Specifically, the law states that the use of two-way communications is allowed for the following:

(a) an individual driving or operating an escort, pilot or trail vehicle who is required by regulation under this act to maintain two-way radio communication,
(b) an individual driving or operating a vehicle who is required by the individual’s employer to maintain two-way radio communication while the individual is acting within the scope of the individual’s employment.

The law affects a variety of activities and devices that can distract a driver.

Devices that have screens, such as televisions and computers, are prohibited if they are visible to the driver; however, the law has clarifications for the use of GPS devices.

Under the law, drivers will not be allowed to program a GPS unit while driving, but they will be allowed to view it. The law states that programming a GPS unit should be done in advance of a trip.

Drivers may not read, write, sketch or view printed material, or engage in personal grooming or hygiene while driving.

The law took effect immediately, but the province of Alberta has initiated a grace period that will last to mid-2011. When the law is in full force, violators will face fines of $172.

“It gives law enforcement some discretion to take action on unsafe driving behaviors in a reasonable manner,” according to supplemental information issued by the province.

“For example, if you are just taking a sip of your coffee or simply touching a button on your car stereo, you won’t get a ticket. If you’re putting on makeup, texting or playing on your laptop, you obviously are distracted so any of these activities would be considered an offense under the law.”