Alberta recently tightened up its distracted driving laws. If you don’t know the new ones you could end up with a ticket…or, worse, find yourself being held at-fault during a personal injury case because you broke the law. Breaking laws while driving can even open you up to punitive damages.
Of course, most people also want to avoid hurting anybody else, which is a good enough reason to avoid distracted driving. A distracted driver is three times more likely to get into an auto accident.
Distracted Driving Is…
If you’re handling your cell phone at all then you are engaging in distracted driving. This even includes entering information into your GPS! You should always program your GPS system while you are parked, before you start your car. You can permit the display of a GPS screen that you glance at every now and then, but you cannot program the vehicle.
There are other sources of distracting. Fixing your hair or make-up count. So does reading a book (some people do this)! If you have an unsecured pet in the front seat that you’re trying to deal with, this, too, is distracted driving.
Other activities, like talking, smoking, or even using a CB radio for commercial purposes are permitted under Alberta law.
Does eating count as distracted driving?
Eating or drinking do not count as distracted driving under Alberta law. Of course, we would recommend making sure whatever you eat is simple and easy to handle. If you are busy juggling tacos in the front seat you could easily cause an accident the moment guacamole hits your lap. Look down reflexively, lose track of the road for a moment, and there could be a serious incident.
What is the penalty for distracted driving?
If you drive distracted you could face fines of $300 and 3 demerit points on your license. This is if you’re pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket.
What if you get into a car accident while driving distracted?
You can expect this fact to complicate your personal injury case. Alberta is a contributory negligence province. This means that a percentage of fault will typically be assigned to each party.
Ideally, the driver you’re trying to sue would be apportioned 100% of fault, allowing you to recover 100% of the funds that a jury awards to you, or 100% of your settlement. Yet if you are found 40% at fault, you’d lose 40% of your settlement money instead.
If you are found more than 50% at fault you can still sue, but the benefits of doing so tend to diminish, and you might have trouble finding an attorney willing to take your case. Further, the other driver might well countersue.
Personal injury attorneys have to take all the risks of a case up front to earn a portion of the settlements, and they tend to prefer clear-cut wins.
The moral of the story? Drive safe! There are just too many consequences for answering that text or trying to multitask your morning routine on the way to work.