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Is it Illegal to Send a Text While Waiting in a Drive-Through Line?

Apr 8, 2014 2:06:00 PM

hair brush 115327 mRecently a man received a ticket for distracted driving for answering a text message while waiting in line at a Beaumont area Tim Horton's drive through. He's On September 1, 2011 Alberta became the first province in Canada to write a law that addresses distracted driving and cell phone use. It is also Canada's most comprehensive distracted driving law, which has led to a bit of confusion over what activities would be considered breaking the law and what would be perfectly legal. Read below to dispel some of these myths.

Myth: Alberta's Distracted Driving Law Only Restricts Cell Phone Use

Truth: Alberta has put together our countries most comprehensive distracted driving law. This means that it does not only restrict use of your phone while you're driving, it also restricts you from doing things like grooming yourself, reading, writing and other activities that can distract you from the task at hand.

Myth: Distracted Driving Offenses Add Demerits to My License

Truth: Those convicted of distracted driving will be fined $172. There are no demerit points awarded for this offence. Drivers caught engaged in serious or risky behaviors behind the wheel could be charged with driving carelessly under the Traffic Safety Act. The penalty for driving carelessly gets you six demerit points and a fine of $402.

Myth: If I Have to Take a Call or Text, I Should Pull Over to the Side of the Road. 

Truth: Not always. Pulling over to the side of the road works if there is a designated spot for you to park, but if you were to pull over on the side of a highway for example, you could find yourself being fined under the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation. For highway travel, pulling onto the shoulder is only permitted in emergency situations. If you have to make a call, find a designated rest stop. 

Myth: It's OK to Brush Your Hair or Send Texts When You're Stopped at a Red Light.

Truth: It is not ok to send text messages or brush your hair at a red light. All of the same rules apply whether you're stopped at a red light, in a major traffic jam or driving down the road. Unless you are legally parked, the distracted driving law is in effect. 

Myth: This Law Only Applies to Motor Vehicles on Our Roads

Truth: This law applies to all vehicles on our roads including bicycles

What Activities are Banned? 

  • talking on a hand-held cell phone
  • texting/e-mailing
  • using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., mp3 players)
  • manually entering information on GPS units
  • reading printed material like a book or a magazine
  • writing, printing or sketching
  • personal grooming like combing your hair, applying makeup or brushing your teeth
  • using a 2-way radio or what is commonly referred to as a CB (Citizen’s Band) radio (some exemptions apply)

What Activities are Allowed? 

  • using a cell phone in hands-free mode - this means the device is not held in the driver's hand and is activated by voice or a single touch to the device
  • using an earphone — if it is used in a hands-free or voice-activated manner
  • drinking beverages, such as coffee, water or pop
  • eating a snack
  • smoking
  • talking with passengers
  • listening to a portable audio player – as long as it is set up before you begin driving
  • calling emergency services, such as 911 with a hand-held cell phone
  • using 2-way radios or hand-held radios, such as those commonly referred to as CB (Citizen’s Band) radios, when escorting oversized vehicles, to contact one's employer, or when participating in search, rescue and emergency management situations.
  • permitting the display screen of the following:
    • a GPS navigation system – as long as the system is affixed to the vehicle and programmed before you begin driving or the system is voice activated. You cannot hold the unit or manually enter information while driving.
    • a collision avoidance system
    • a gauge, instrument, device or system that provides information about the vehicle’s systems or the vehicle’s location
    • a dispatch system for transporting passengers
    • a logistical transportation tracking system that tracks vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of goods for commercial purposes

For a complete description of Alberta's distracted driving legislation, please see the information page on the Transportation Alberta Website:



If you have any questions or would like to comment on what surprises you about our provinces rules of the road, leave us a comment below!

If all this talk about distracted driving makes you wonder about how you can get better service and a better price on your car insurance, try our 3 minute Quick Quote online: 

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Rob Stevenson

Written by Rob Stevenson


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