EDMONTON — The recreational use of CB radios is included in the Alberta government’s sweeping new law aimed at curbing distracted driving.
Bill 16, which passed the provincial legislature last week, restricts the use of virtually anything that could distract drivers, including hand-held CB radios for recreational purposes.
CB radios are permitted only for drivers of pilot vehicles who must maintain contact with another vehicle, and for drivers using the radio to contact their employer where the employee is required to maintain radio contact. The exemption also extends to use in search and rescue situations and emergencies.
Fines for illegally using cell phones, CB radios, and for other distracting activities, start at $172 with no demerit points, but drivers could face additional charges if other violations are committed, such as running a red light or making an improper lane change.
Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette described the passing of the legislation as heralding “a great day for traffic safety in our province."
A news release from his office states, "This legislation is a bold approach and goes beyond restricting cell phones and deals with the broader issue of distracted driving."
Several other provinces, including Saskatchewan and B.C., have already banned hand-held cell phones while driving.
In Ontario, there is a plan to phase out CBs and similar UHF/VHF radios over the next three years, assuming that two-way, hands-free technologies are developed within that time. The Ontario Trucking Association says that the Ministry of Transportation could extend that time-frame if no suitable technology is yet available to replace CBs.
In Calgary, Keith McMurdo, president K-Mac Transportation, predicts Alberta’s new law will spark “an outcry” among some truckers who frequently use CB radios.
“I, myself, I’m usually one for listening and not talking too much, so this ban won’t affect me a great deal. But I think you’ll probably hear some objection to it. A little bit of an outcry. There are some who use them a lot – mostly the people going west of Calgary. There are die-hards who do use them.”
McMurdo has two full-time drivers on the road, and is in the driver’s seat once or twice a week himself depending on how busy he is. Although all three of his trucks are outfitted with CB radios, he’s noticed they are used as frequently any more.
“It’s a thing we don’t use a whole lot anymore. It’s kind of funny how that goes,” he said. “Pretty much, technology’s moved on. It just seems you don’t travel with friends like you used to in days of old, you know? You’d always have a conversation or you’d speak with the guys coming the other way. But it doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore. Just the other night there were 20 trucks all going in the same direction and there was hardly a word between them.”
He says he’ll be listening for chatter on the ban next time he’s on the road.
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