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Distracted driving the focus of August “STEP” program

Those who continue to drive distracted will be under the microscope for the month of August as part of the city’s Selected Traffic Enforcement Program.

Since the legislation was introduced in Alberta in 2011, 97 per cent of distracted driving convictions were for using a hand-held electronic device. Sgt. Ross Gear with Enforcement Services says the danger that comes with taking your eyes off the road for even a second is simply not worth the risk.

“Studies have found distracted driving impairs a driver almost the same as having alcohol in their system because you just don’t have that road awareness,” he says. “Your head is down and you’re concentrating, reading a text, but what if something changes…you don’t have that situational awareness when you take off.”

While cellphone use behind the wheel is seemingly the main cause for concern, Gear says a long list of things can be construed as distracted driving. This includes things like reading printed materials in the vehicle, writing, printing or sketching, or personal grooming such as brushing and flossing teeth.

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Gear says he also hopes to clear up any doubt when confronting people who quickly check their phone when stopped at a red light.

“Distracted driving even counts when you come up to a stop sign or a red light. The only time you can use a cellphone, or some other device is when you pull over and stop properly.”

The penalty for distracted driving is a $287 fine and three demerit points.

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