Drivers in Strathcona County are preparing to hang up or pay up.

One week from today, the county east of Edmonton will impose a first-time fine of $100 and a second-offence fine of $200 for anyone caught on their phone while driving on county roads, with no warning or trial period.

The bylaw is specifically for hand-held cellphones, and includes sending text messages, though drivers can still lawfully talk on wireless earpieces.

“(Cellphone use) definitely takes your attention away from the task at hand, which is driving,” said Strathcona County RCMP Const. Wally Henry.

The bylaw only pertains to county-controlled roads; cellphone use is still permitted on provincial roads, Henry added.

Infractions will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Henry said, adding Mounties, county bylaw officers and community peace officers will all be able to enforce the law.

“If you ask me if I’ve been to a collision before where it’s been a result of somebody on their cellphone, yes I have,” Henry said. “It has happened and does happen.”

County council recently conducted a survey and the supportive response for the bylaw was “overwhelming,” Ward 8 Coun. Jason Gariepy said.

“We have, on average, 10 collisions a day in Strathcona County,” Gariepy said. “When you factor in the cost to our emergency services, loss of property and, of course, loss of life, you have to ask, at what point is enough enough?”

Nathan Evans, who lives in a trailer park straddling the Edmonton-Strathcona County boundary, said he welcomes the new rule.

“Just about every day that I go out onto the highway I have someone almost swerve into me,” Evans said. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time it’s because of someone on a cellphone.”

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