February is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the RCMP are reminding the public that activities like cell phone use can cause not just problems, but tragedies.
“Our brains are not capable of fully concentrating on two things simultaneously,” said Cpl. Laurel Scott, RCMP Media Relations Group, from her Leduc office Jan. 26.
“Never mind texting or emailing, simply talking on a cell phone while driving slows reaction time significantly.
“If you’re texting, or engaging in a cell phone conversation while driving that leaves your brain with less cognitive load to focus on your driving.
“Reaction time for braking, while talking on a cell phone, is compromised. Just ten feet of difference in stopping your vehicle can mean the difference between a pedestrian’s life or death.
“Drivers who are texting miss lane changes, vary more in their lane positions, have difficulty maintaining consistent speeds, compromise their following distances and basically put everyone in their vicinity, as well as themselves, at danger.”
An RCMP press release stated that Alberta’s distracted driving law restricts drivers from using hand-held cell phones, texting or e-mailing, using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays, and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players), entering information on GPS units, reading printed materials in the vehicle, writing, printing or sketching and personal grooming.
Cpl. Scott noted distracted driving, which includes using hand held cell phones or texting, carries a monetary fine of $287 along with three demerit points, so motorists can lose their license as a result.
Cpl. Scott said some of the distracted driving problems can be frightening to people nearby. “I have personally watched a driver ahead of me texting while he was traveling at 105 km per hour,” she said.
“He slowly drifted over the fog line onto the shoulder and then drifted back into the driving lane. I am a cyclist who uses the shoulder, thinking I have a safety zone. Watching that scared me.”
She added that when motorists are behind the wheel, there’s one job they should be focused on.
“Keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, put your focus where it should be.”