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Alberta tries again to ban the use of cellphones while driving

driving-talking2The reliance on cellphones has led to an increase in talking on a cellphone while driving. Statistics show that driving while talking or texting on a cellphone is leading to driver distractions that cause car accidents. That’s why, on April 14, 2010, the Alberta government introduced Bill 16, the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act, 2010, which proposes a ban on the use of hand-held cellphones and activities like texting, reading, writing and personal grooming, and puts restrictions on using other electronic devices while driving. The ban would apply to all vehicles as defined by the Traffic Safety Act, and would complement the current driving without due care and attention legislation.

This is the third time Alberta has tabled legislation unsuccessfully in the effort to ban the use of wireless electronic devices while driving. Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette said:

This legislation is a practical, effective and enforceable approach to the issue of distracted driving … We are sending a strong safety message to all Albertans: When you’re in your vehicle, your focus must be on driving.

The government said it wanted to go beyond cellphones as the only form of serious distraction for drivers.

The ban would, among other things:

  • Prohibit drivers from holding/using hand-held/portable communication/entertainment devices such as cellphones, laptops or MP3 players while driving
  • Prohibit drivers from reading, writing or attending to personal hygiene or grooming while driving—ladies, let go off the lipstick and mascara… men, no more hair nose clipping while driving!
  • Prohibit the use CB radios unless they are for commercial purposes or search and rescue services
  • Allow the use of hands-free phones
  • Allow the use a GPS system, but it must be programmed or set up in advance of driving so that drivers are not manually typing or inputting information while driving; GPS units must be secured to the vehicle and may only be used in a voice-activated manner while driving
  • Allow drivers to use hand-held phones to contact emergency response units

Enforcement officers would use their discretion to charge distracted drivers a proposed fine of $172 with no demerit points. A distracted driver could face additional charges: a serious offence could mean a fine of $402 and six demerit points.

The government intends to debate the Bill in legislature this fall. This will give the public and traffic safety stakeholders an opportunity to view Bill 16 and provide comments and feedback.

Let’s hope this time their efforts are not in vain.

Why is this issue important for employers? An employer may be liable if an employee causes an accident while on the phone in the scope of doing business. A personal injury victim may file a suit against the driver involved in a cellphone-related accident and their employer in certain circumstances. Thus, a policy indicating to employees how the cellphone should be used during the course of business is a good thing to have to minimize the potential liability.

Employers should also consider educating and training employees on the use of company or personal cellphones while driving.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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