AB Law Enforcement, and Other Emergency Workers, Should be Partially Subject to Distracted Driving Laws
So, since this distracted driving law came into effect in Alberta I have been watching emergency workers. What I have noticed is that police still use their cell phones frequently while on the road. Yes, I am aware that under the new Alberta law emergency personal have an exemption. Last Aug Calgary’s chief of police told media in Calgary that police officers are exempt because they use the equipment for work and have advanced driver training. While, as of yesterday I would tend to agree with the chief today I have decided that this is a weak argument.
I was sitting in a study room exchanging stories with other students about the dumbass things we see people do behind the wheel, you know it seemed more fun then studying. One of the girls made a comment about how she doesn’t understand why emergency personal are not exempt from the law. After a bit of conversation one of the women, who’s husband happens to be a police officer, stated (to my surprise) that it is a bunch of crap that they are not exempt and there is no reason why police officers, and other emergency personal can’t use blue tooth in their vehicles.
I think she may be onto something here. I understand that police need to be able to dial their phones, even when they are behind the wheel (if they are not on duty with a partner). But I am curious why law enforcement officials, who claim that texting, or talking while driving is extremely dangerous, are not utilizing the technology available to them to keep their workers from being distracted, and by extension keep us all, and our roads, safer.
What does everyone else think? Should cities, the government, and policing organizations do everything possible to ensure our emergency workers are going hands free?
Finally! A campaign that focuses on the perpetrator instead of the victim. In November of 2010 Edmonton launched the first Don’t be that Guy Campaign. Now Calgary is following in their footsteps and is launching it here. This week you’ll start to notice some in your face posters, such as the one to the left, on CTrains, buses, in nightclub, and in the universities. The posters are mostly targeting men, and will appear in nightclub and university washrooms, as well as other high traffic sites around town.
The DBTGC is being launched by the ‘Sexual Assault Voices of Calgary’. An organization that seeks to change societal thinking: “We are looking at societal change here, it’s important to remember this is not just a police initiative, this involves so many different organizations” says detective Paul Wyatt of the Calgary Police Service’s Sex Crimes Unit. The partners he is refering to includes: Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, Alberta Health Service, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, Calgary Police Service, Calgary Sexual Health Centre, Canadian Red Cross, Connect Family and Sexual Abuse Network and HomeFront.
The in your face campaign is aimed at Men, 18-24, in order to not only take the onus off the victim but bring men into the conversation about sexual assault. The message that this campaign is trying to get across is clear: “if someone is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs they cannot give consent, and sex without consent is sexual assault.” Police Chief Rick Hanson hopes to push the message home as well “You can no longer hide behind the mistaken belief that it’s okay to use drugs or alcohol,as an excuse, or think because a woman did not give you a ‘no’ answer, that it means ‘yes’.”
On every poster the message ” Sex Without Consent = Sexual assault” appears at the bottom. The SAV website also pushes the message that if you have sex without consent, it’s sexual assault:
” sexual assault is any form of sexual activity forced on someone else without that person’s consent. Force can be physical, or through the use of threats, bullying, manipulation, alcohol/drugs or harassment. Any unwanted sexual activity–including kissing, touching, groping, flashing, oral sex, intercourse, photographing, etc.–under ANY circumstances is sexual assault.”
The website includes a section that talks about what consent is and what consent is not. For example, it reads: “Consent is simple. Just ask.” and in contrast to that reads: “Consent is not obtained if the person changes her/his mind. And a person can change his or her mind at ANY time.”
The campaign is meant to change the minds of men, reminding them that the fight against sexual assault involves them as well, and if they see it they too need to step up and say something. “This is a multi-scale approach, not only do we want to get the message out there that it’s never the victims fault, you weren’t in the wrong place, you weren’t drinking too much, you weren’t dressed the wrong way. But we want to target those men to tell them that this behaviour is not acceptable. We also want to target the men who are with them. Those who can stand up to their friends and remind them if you do this you are going to go to jail” says Wyatt. Reminding us that this is a community effort. If we see something we need to stand up against it, and once and for all shake this idea that somehow a women brought on her assault because she was wearing a short skirt and high heels.
We put the onus on the victim too much in our community today, sending the message to perpetrators that it is OK, as a result causing more damage to the victim. As a victim of assault I know that we begin to internalize these feelings. You start to feel that maybe it really is your fault, maybe if you hadn’t had that one extra drink, or worn that short skirt, or walked down that dark street alone, or in my case rollerbladed down that dark pathway, it wouldn’t have happened to us. But it does happen to us. “As a community, it is important for us to stand together and say this type of behaviour is not acceptable and the consequences are too great.” says Laurie Blahitka, of Alberta Health Services.
Not only is this a message about consent, consequences, and victim blaming, it’s also a way to bring men into the conversation. It’s about making men part of the solution too. This is so important because if we remain divided, we’ll never win. As a victim, and an advocate I am so glad to see that people are finally starting to realize it’s going to take the cooperation of all kinds of organizations and people to start changing the minds of society.
I will leave you with a great quote from the SAVCalgary website :
If we keep thinking about the sexual abuses and sexual assaults committed by men as a ‘women’s issue’, we’re not going to do much about truly preventing that violence. The women you care about–and your kids–should live and grow up in a society where male violence against women is not acceptable. Not legally, not morally, not socially.
Yup, you read that right. The Calgary police force were out this morning doing something very interesting,and awesome, to help raise awareness of the new distracted driving law that took affect this morning. In conjunction with Cjay92 and AutoTemp Air & Sound Inspector LaGrange, and Reddawg from CJay 92 were out and looking for those violating the law. Instead of issuing them a $172.00 ticket they were issued an education and a blue tooth head set. “Everyone of the people we stopped knew why they were being stopped and were very shocked and grateful to be getting a bluetooth headset instead of a ticket” LaGrange told me in a telephone interview.
According to CJAY92′s Facebook Page they “pulled over a women who was eating and swerving, a guy talking on his cellphone, and a women who was texting and driving”. CJay 92′s Forbes and Friends Morning show say they had a blast doing this with the CPS today. And who wouldn’t!? “the CPS were incredibly nice to work with, thanks Kev, Rick, and Dean” Gerry Forbes, host of Forbes And Friends, posted on the show’s Facebook.
This was a great opportunity for the Calgary police service to educate the public while at the same time making it clear that this is the new law and it is in place for the safety of everyone on the road. “We thought it was Just a great way to drive the point home to talk to them about education and reward them with a tool to improve habits” says LaGrange ” We don’t intend to have a zero tolerance policy what we want to focus on is a change in this culture we have” LaGrange talked to me about how we’ve all created a culture of instant communication and we’ve lost any balance we had. Balance is needed and soon this will evolve just like the seat belt law did when it first came into effect. “People did not like the seat belt law when that took effect but soon it became second nature to them.”
There is no doubt about it we have created a culture of instantaneous communication where we expect ourselves and everyone else to be available all the time. Would it really be the end of the world if we had to wait until we were all the way to work to open that work related email? Updated our Facebook status about the stupid drivers on the road that have already managed to grind our gears that morning? Or text our BFF this crazy thing we just saw happen? Probably not.
I for one am glad that the Calgary police service have every intention of ticketing people who are a danger to themselves and others on the road because of their texting, personal grooming, and other activities they do behind the wheel.
I asked Inspector LaGrange if he thought the new law would change people’s behaviour and in fact make our roads safer as there have been studies suggesting this is not the case. “Time will tell if it impacts safety on the streets, the thing is we will never know the what if. ” Would a drunk driver who was pulled over and arrested have killed someone if they hadn’t been caught? “Even if it saves one person’s life, or stops the millions in property damage each year, it’s worth it.” Given that this law is one of the toughest in North America and doesn’t just ban cell phone use, it will be interesting to see some follow up studies and statistics in the future. Will the extra restrictions in fact make a difference?
For now he says that this weekend will be business as usual. That if you are caught blatantly breaking the law you will be issued a ticket,if you are caught drinking and driving you will be charged. He says that CPS aren’t going to be popping out from behind trees at you, and they won’t be issuing tickets because you are drinking a coffee. They want to catch people who are doing dangerous things behind the wheel: texting, plucking nose haris, reading etc. They don’t want to clog up the courts with people fighting tickets for sipping a coffee anymore then you want to take time off work to go fight the ticket for sipping a coffee.
I know that as far as I am concerned I will be leaving my cell phone on silent mode and in my bag so as to remove any temptation I may have at taking a look at my phone at red lights. I know many others are doing the same thing so I think it’s fair to say that the deterrence has had some effect, at least so far. LaGrange had some good advice for citizens “turn it off when you get in the car, turn it on when you get out of the car”.