With seatbelt legislation first being introduced in Canada on January 1st, 1976 you would think everybody would be buckling up by now.
Unfortunately, as members from the Alberta Sheriffs and RCMP jointly conducted the seatbelt #TrafficSafety operation in Cochrane today (November 8) you realize that is just not the case.
Estimated to have pulled over ten vehicles in violation within in an hour time period, Sergeant Darrin Turnbull, Traffic Advisory and CO for Southern Alberta, says while generally, 95% of drivers in rural Alberta are compliant not all are getting the message. With the month of November being Occupant Restraint month on the Alberta Traffic Safety Plan calendar, there will be a greater concentration placed on catching those who are not buckling up. "We want to try to remind motorists and make sure it is a forefront thing for them to wear their seatbelt. It is the one thing that a driver of a vehicle can do to protect themselves. You can't convince someone from running a red light and crashing into you but you can convince yourself, family, and loved ones to wear a seatbelt because that might be the one thing that saves their life."
With a scope operation set up for seatbelt and distracted driving violations on Fifth Avenue West, Sgt. Turnbull says they can see approximately 200 metres ahead by looking through the spotting scope.
While buckling up before you head onto the roadway is preventative, distracted driving can have devastating results for all those involved. "It is probably the leading cause of serious injury vehicle collisions, we're just waiting for new statistics to come out from Alberta Transportation. We're expecting that it will be one of the factors that are explained in the statistics. The reality is that distracted driving, which we can observe here today using the spotting scope, is one of those things we can see from a distance and that gives us time to observe the offense, see the cell phone in their hands, get them stopped, and issue the violation ticket."
Between occupants in cars not belting up to drivers who continue to drive distracted, Sgt. Turnbull shares it is disheartening at times for those who work the front lines. "We do this job day in and day out for the enforcement side of it but we also go to the car crashes. We also see the devastation that happens from this so we're dedicated to making sure this works to get people into their seatbelts."
If you are caught distracted driving it will cost you $287 plus three demerits while a seatbelt violation ticket carries no demerit points and costs $155 per belt in the car. While hard to say whether stiffer penalties would help, that decision rests in the hands of the province, states Turnbull. "I am aware of a driver who lives in Southern Alberta that has twelve convictions now for distracted driving. The last conviction, because of his record, was issued a $2000 fine because this is serious and people are dying because of it and we need people to realize that and come to the realization on their own that they need to leave their phone alone."
Between 2012 and 2016, 341 people in Alberta lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions from not being buckling up and the impact is massive. "That is 341 families that had to be notified that their loved one died in a crash and is not coming home and then you look at that on the impact of our communities and the province, that is huge."