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New Brunswick introduces distracted driving legislation

Using a hand-held cell phone and or certain devices while driving in New Brunswick would no longer be allowed as a result of amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act introduced in the legislative assembly.

“Texting and using cell phones while driving are dangerous behaviours that have become too common,” Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Robert Trevors said. “In fact, studies show that a significant percentage of collisions are the result of distracted driving. By introducing this legislation, our government is sending a message that distracted driving is not acceptable.”

The legislation would prohibit the handling or other manipulation of the following while driving:

●    hand-held cellular telephones, except when operated in a hands-free manner;
●    texting devices; and
●    portable entertainment devices.

The bill would also prohibit the manual programming or adjusting of any Global Positioning System (GPS) system while driving.

In addition, television-style viewing screens, monitors, DVD players, and computer screens would not be permitted within the visual range of the operator of the driver of a motor vehicle.

Police, fire and ambulance personnel would be exempt from these restrictions when performing their duties. Ham radio operators would be permitted to use two-way radios for emergency search and rescue activities.

The legislation would allow drivers to use a communication device to report an emergency to the appropriate authorities, such as to 911.

The legislation would allow motor vehicle operators and commercial vehicle operators to use two-way radios for commercial purposes.

Drivers who violate the legislation would be subject to the loss of three points from their licence and a subject to fine of  $172.50.

The legislation would come into effect in early 2011 following a public awareness and education campaign.

Bill Adams, Vice-President, Atlantic, IBC, said: “Insurers welcome the new law and commend New Brunswick officials for taking a comprehensive approach to combating distracted driving. We hope that government’s public education plans on the issue are equally as comprehensive because it’s clear that this proposed legislation is not enough. It needs to be combined with strong consumer education to ensure that drivers understand and comply.”

He added: “Until a few years ago, there wasn’t a strong stigma against intoxicated driving. Today, it is universally condemned. As a society, we need to do the same thing with distracted driving. Through public education, we must make driving while distracted as unacceptable as driving while drunk.”

“Dangerous distractions go beyond just electronic gadgets,” said Adams, “But since common sense cannot be legislated, we encourage drivers to think about all distractions and change their behavior accordingly.”

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