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How Distracted Driving Can Affect Your Insurance Rate in Edmonton

Did you know that the RCMP now has a longer lens that can track distracted driving from 1.2 km away?  

These high-quality lenses catch distracted drivers all across the country in addition to the traditional RIDE programs to catch drivers under the influence.

Distracted driving continues to be a top cause of accidents in Alberta. Because of this, it is essential to drive carefully and obtain comprehensive car insurance coverage to protect you and your vehicle. 

But what is distracted driving, exactly, and how does a distracted driving charge affect your car insurance?

An experienced auto insurance broker in Alberta at MBS Insurance Brokers Ltd. can answer all the questions you have about distracted driving in Alberta and help get you started with the coverage you need at a competitive rate.

What is Distracted Driving?

As a top cause of motor vehicle accidents in Alberta, distracted driving is more than just texting while driving. Even eating or drinking while operating a vehicle can be a form of distracted driving. Other forms of distracted driving can include using different vehicle equipment such as the radio or GPS.

Under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, distracted driving includes the following activities while driving:

  • Using hand-held cell phones
  • Texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at red lights)
  • Using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays, and programming portable audio players
  • Entering information on GPS units
  • Reading printed materials in the vehicle.
  • Writing, printing, or sketching; and
  • Personal grooming (brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, curling hair, clipping nails, or shaving)

 

Drivers engaged in any of the identified activities listed above can face charges, even if it has no effects on their driving performance. If a driver commits a moving violation while distracted, they will receive two tickets – one for distracted driving and one for the moving violation.

There are many dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving can put you and others at risk, causing potential harm, injury, and even death.

In addition to this, distracted driving can significantly impact your car insurance rates, result in hefty fines, and impact your driving record.

texting in the car

What is Allowed Under Distracted Driving Laws?

You can only use a cell phone while driving if it is an emergency, and you need to call 9-1-1. If you must use your phone while you are driving, you must use hands-free equipment. 

These types of equipment can include:

  • Cell phones with Bluetooth or a headset
  • A GPS screen which mounted on your dashboard
  • A portable media player
  • Built-in display screens

The law does not restrict the following activities:

  • Drinking beverages
  • Eating a snack
  • Smoking
  • Speaking with passengers in the car
  • Using two-way radios when required to remain in contact with an employer
  • Listening to a portable audio player (must be set up before driving begins)

What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Alberta?

As of January 1, 2016, the penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is a $300 fine and three demerit points. Any charges or convictions for infractions before January 1, 2016, will result in a $287 fine but no demerit points (regardless of whether someone pays the ticket before or after January 1).

Police issue tickets for distracted driving to the driver of the vehicle and not the registered owner. Should a driver receive too many demerit points, they will face suspension – meaning 8 demerit points for someone in the GDL program and 15 for a fully licensed driver.

If you receive a distracted driving ticket, you can anticipate that your car insurance costs will increase. One ticket can lead to the end of the clean driving record discount, which may amount to a 5-10% increase in your insurance premiums. As noted above, you may receive two tickets, leading to premium increases of up to $500 per year depending on your package.

Some insurance markets even remove optional coverage such as collision coverage with only one distracted driving ticket.

You can learn more about factors affecting car insurance premiums in Alberta here.

Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

The best tips to avoid distracted driving require careful planning. 

To avoid being distracted by a GPS device, you should plan your route. If there are any changes to your route, use a voice-activated system or pull over to the side of the road to use the GPS to change your destination.

Similarly, for a cellphone, set up your car with voice-activated dialling and a Bluetooth headset to use your phone hands-free. Assign a “designated texter” who can send and receive texts on your behalf while driving. If you need to contact emergency services while driving, there is no penalty for calling 911 while driving, though if you can safely pull over before calling, you should consider doing so if safe.

Be careful with any food or drink in the car, and make sure your passengers know not to distract the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Set the car radio in advance and avoid changing it while in traffic.

Here are some other tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • Prepare yourself before you go.
  • Put your phone away
  • Eat before you start driving.
  • Put away your phone
  • If you drop something, don’t reach to pick it up.
  • Plan your route ahead of time
  • Pay full attention to your children.

Contact MBS Insurance for Car Insurance in Edmonton, Alberta

The MBS Insurance Brokers Ltd. team can help you obtain customized auto insurance in Edmonton and across Alberta at a great price. As a trusted auto insurance broker in Edmonton, we can help you find discounts for your clean driving record or help you obtain the coverage you need if dealing with previous accidents or tickets for distracted driving. Contact us today at 780-436-7880 to get your free no-obligation auto insurance quote in Edmonton and the surrounding area.

As one of Alberta’s largest brokerages, MBS Insurance Brokers LTD. helps thousands of clients throughout Edmonton. The surrounding areas find insurance that fits their needs while saving them money. Learn more about us here.

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This article was originally published on June 14, 2020, and was updated in 2021.