July 12th, 2024

Police have eyes on city’s distracted drivers

By Tim Kalinowski on February 4, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge Police Service wants you to know even though you might not have your eyes on the road as you fiddle with your cellphone, its officers certainly may have their eyes on you.
“In the Traffic Response Unit all of our vehicles are unmarked,” states Sgt. Kevin Talbot of the LPS Traffic Response Unit; “so they look like any other vehicle out on the road. And a lot of them are trucks. So it is very easy to pull up at an intersection beside someone and look down on or across at another vehicle of the same height and the individuals don’t know you are there. That is probably our best tool when we’re doing traffic enforcement when it comes to distracted driving.”
February is Distracted Driving month under the banner of the province-wide Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, but Talbot said that is really every month for the members of his unit, and represents a good percentage of the violations the unit issues each month.
“Our officers focus on enforcement around distracted driving a significant amount,” he confirms, stating it has become a major safety problem on Lethbridge’s roads and streets.
“You can drive your own personal vehicle down the road, and I would venture to guess you would see at least somebody from one intersection to the next intersection who is driving while texting, talking on their phone, or manipulating something on their phone. It is quite common in this day and age, and the range of people that are doing it is very broad.”
But distracted driving doesn’t just mean cellphones, he says, it is anything a driver might be doing while operating a motor vehicle which takes their eyes off the road or fully engrosses the driver’s attention, such as an animated cellphone conversation, and thus puts other drivers in danger. Talbot says it is not uncommon to see people eating or doing other actions within the vehicle which takes their hands right off the steering wheel as well as their eyes off the road, making the distracted driving even more dangerous.
“When your eyes are off the road, you are not paying attention to what may come across your path, and what you might have to react quickly to,” he explains. “And on top of that you might be driving with your elbows or your knees– so you are not in a position to quickly react and avoid the collision. It is a recipe for disaster is what it is when you drive while distracted, and not be in a position to react to what is coming up ahead of you.”
Talbot says it’s a $300 fine if you are caught distracted driving. It also means demerits on your licence which can lead to the loss of the licence under some circumstances. Demerits also often mean higher insurance rates, he adds. But the biggest thing he hopes readers will take away from this article is the fact by engaging in distracted driving you are putting yourself, other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians at risk of significant harm or even death.
“That’s what people often forget,” Talbot states. “They might say I don’t want to get a ticket, but really the most important thing is you don’t want to cause a collision where someone gets hurt. That’s the most important thing, and you want to try to avoid that.”

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Dennis Bremner

This leaves a wide interpretation as to what is distracted driving. As far as I know eating a donut is not distracted driving, but it could be and would then be up to the officer? So if the officer is having a bad hair day, you get a ticket, if not, then maybe not? Sipping coffee would then be distracted driving, adjusting your radio, turning on your hands free if an older vehicle?
So it now becomes “a catch all, that can catch all”! The law when created was to stop cellphone usage but as we see with any law if it can be interpreted to encompass more reasons to fine people, it will. It becomes “drive only”, reaching to turn up the radio suddenly becomes the monster the law has become!
Its articles like this that slowly creates the “judicial creep” in the law and that was not the intent when created ! Distracted driving can be easily interpreted and as time goes on and budgets are tight, that interpretation can be to the detriment of the drivers of this province. Not just because of the fine, but the demerit points have a long term financial impact with insurance.
So suddenly a bad hair day for one person becomes a nightmare for another? That was not the intent of the law. Were you holding the donut or eating it? When you hold the donut, you have intent on eating it, suddenly a donut can change your life!
If a donut can change your life, what about a cigarette, you are holding it, therefore have the intent on smoking it? It requires the same movements as the donut, except chewing? But you now use the ashtray, that requires you to focus on the placing the ashes in the ashtray? Coffee? There is no end, if the law does not want an END!
If one then falls back on “common sense will prevail” then I then say, what about the 9 year old who was just pepper sprayed by an officer in the US? One always hopes one can rely on “common sense” but there are many many instances where it was not displayed in today’s society.

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Bremner

the example of doughnut does bring a smile. i agree with you in that here is another example of the creep of the law. one might also say it is another example that should alert one to the creep that is the law, be it govt or those employed to enforce. one supposes that police driving around all day plugging licence plate numbers into their on dash computers is not distracted driving, but punching in some letters on a phone is distracted driving. is it training that is the difference? is there a business opportunity now available that can train drivers to text as safely as cops pound licence plate numbers into their computers?
no one likes a woefully distracted driver; but i have to figure there are few that like what has become x-ray eyes of big govt and big corp destroying one’s right to privacy, either.