Vol. 80, No. 1News notes

Selfie of RCMP police officer with a group of young people behind him.

Distracted drivers get second chance

Sgt. Darrin Turnbull and the Battles (father Stephen, far right, and Melody in the go-kart) teach young drivers who are caught driving distracted the dangers of not paying attention behind the wheel. Credit: Sgt. Darrin Turnbull, RCMP

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Sgt. Darrin Turnbull catches drivers using cellphones daily. While the $287 ticket and three demerit points are meant to act as a deterrent, he says it's not always the case.

"I'm a traffic guy," says Turnbull, from RCMP Traffic Services in Alberta. "I've written thousands of tickets and I will write thousands more. But enforcement isn't always enough."

In Alberta, drivers ticketed for distracted driving have three options: pay the fine, dispute the ticket or go to court.

But now, Turnbull has created a fourth option for distracted drivers called Option Four.

Aimed at young drivers in the Calgary area, Option Four gives them a chance to attend a one-day seminar.

"The course is a wake-up call," says Turnbull. "Young people think they're invincible. This is a way to reach out to the youth so they come to their own realization how dangerous picking up the phone actually is."

Participants learn about the law in Alberta and how police can spot distracted drivers. They also get to see for themselves the effects of distracted driving by taking a go-kart around a track while taking a selfie and sending it to a friend.

And they meet the Battles.

The Battles' lives were forever changed the day their daughter Melody drove her car into the back of a highway grader. She was texting her boss that she was going to be late.

Melody, now 22 years old, suffered a traumatic brain injury and is blind in her right eye. She had to re-learn to walk and talk.
"With her injury, she can't cry, she doesn't feel anger, she can't dream," says Melody's father, Stephen Battle. "She's a completely different person post-accident. One by one, her friends disappeared."

Melody and her parents often leave people in tears. Since partnering with the RCMP, they've started BADD, Battle Against Distracted Driving.

"Option Four gives distracted drivers a second chance," says Stephen Battle. "I share our family's story and tell them, 'You're alive right now. Stay that way.' "

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