Driver distraction an ‘epidemic’ in Alberta

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EDMONTON, Alta. — Driver distraction has become so serious in Alberta it’s being called an epidemic by the Alberta Motor Association as one of the deadliest summers on Alberta highways nears an end.

The most recent serious crash in the province came Monday when a gravel truck driver was killed after a minivan ran a stop sign near Lethbridge. The AMA says in-car gadgets and other distractions are to be blamed for the increase in deadly highway crashes in the province.

"The driver is almost always the weakest link in highway crashes," Don Szarko, manager of traffic safety initiatives with AMA tells local media. "It’s as much a public health issue as a safety issue. We’ve got to get the message across that there is an unacceptable cost, and unacceptable burden in terms of loss of life and pain and suffering. It’s time we got our act together in this province. We just can’t accept another summer like we’ve had in 2002."

It’s looking more and more like this summer will go down in the books as the worst ever for highway fatalities in Alberta.

"We’re absolutely frustrated with all the crashes, everything is out of control," says Szarko. "The vehicle now has more accessories that tempt the driver to do anything but focus their eyes on the road and tackle the task of driving."

Since more than 75 per cent of fatal crashes occur on rural highways and back roads, Szarko says the province needs to do more to make them safer.

"A lot has changed since the 1960s when we developed Alberta’s roads," he says. "They need to be reviewed from a safety perspective, and not just a pavement perspective. We’ve got bigger trucks, more trucks, different ages of drivers."

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