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Time to ban non hands-free devices while driving.

Last week, I had a near-death experience on Highway 16 heading east on my way back to St. Paul after a brief visit to Edmonton.

Last week, I had a near-death experience on Highway 16 heading east on my way back to St. Paul after a brief visit to Edmonton. I left Edmonton very early in the morning for the two hour drive back to town, and was excited at the day’s activities since it was my first time photographing and reporting on the annual SPAA Cross Country races in Westcove.

With less than 30 km to the turn-off from the Yellowhead to the road going through the town of Mundare, I saw in my rear window a black Dodge truck with ridiculously huge wheels overtaking a semi and multiple vehicles.

The driver must have been driving at least 150 km/hr when he passed me, and while I thought he was going to speed ahead to overtake more traffic in front, he chose to suddenly cut me off with mere inches distance between our vehicles.

If not for some fast reflexes on my part, together with protection from above, my tiny car would have been lying on a ditch at the side of the highway last Wednesday morning.

During the incident I managed to catch a brief glimpse of the driver, and he looked no older than 17. Worse yet, he had one hand on his cellular device, and he didn’t even offer an apologetic look while he almost caused an auto accident.

Let me clarify by saying that I have no problem with teenage drivers, since I myself was a teenage driver many, many moons ago. I am certain I was considered a terror for many of the adult and older drivers, not to mention my dear parents, when I first received my learner’s license.

However, there is a very clear line between being a new driver, and a new driver who refuses to pay attention while on the road. Someone who is more riveted to a non hands-free electronic device while driving a 11,000 pound truck while speeding down a highway with busy morning traffic is more or less as dangerous as an individual running around blindly with a loaded rifle while on skates on a busy ice rink.

A law against using hand-held devices while driving was passed in Ontario while I was living there last year, and I would strongly support the Albertan government if they pass a similar law. The Albertan government has introduced a new Distracted Driving Amendment Act, which could subject those using hand-held cellphones, texting, reading, writing and personal grooming while driving to a $172 fine. The bill could become law next spring.

Some drivers who like to multitask while on the road may disagree with this law and with me, but in the end, a traffic law which bans the use of hand-held devices for drivers will be more beneficial in saving countless lives put in jeopardy by careless drivers who think they can multi-task at the risk of the lives of others sharing the road.