THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Distracted Driving

 


To blame all instances of distracted driving on technology would be inaccurate. Distractions that interfere with an individual’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle can come from a wide variety of sources. However, the use of technology, and in particular cell phones, is probably the most visible cause of distracted driving accidents and deaths. It only takes a second or more of lost concentration to be at risk of an accident.

Texting and Driving

  • Drivers engaged in visual-manual interactions with cell phones (e.g., texting) are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2017)
  • Checking a text for 5 seconds means that at 90 km/h, you’ve travelled the length of a football field blindfolded.

Source: CAA - May 1, 2018

Possible Causes of Distracted Driving

In addition to cell phones, other types of technology such as GPS devices, dvd players, laptops, tablets, and music players can cause distractions for drivers. Further, operating the car’s internal controls for the radio, climate control, seat and mirror adjustment, and windows can also divide a driver’s attention. Other common in-vehicle distractions can include conversations with passengers, active passengers, unrestrained pets, trying to read maps or directions while driving, personal grooming, and eating or drinking. Out-of-vehicle distractions can include diverting too much attention to reading signage or advertising, pedestrians, accidents and emergency scenes, other vehicles and cyclists, rude driver behaviour, street noise such as horns and sirens, construction, and even scenery.

Preventing Distracted Driving

With a little preparation and the right mindset, distracted driving can almost totally be eliminated. If you are generally prepared to travel, and know what not to do while travelling, you are much less likely to become distracted.

Before Driving Your Vehicle:
  • If the vehicle is unfamiliar, take a few minutes to know and understand the controls.
  • Any personal hygiene should be completed before entering your vehicle.
  • If hungry or thirsty, have something to eat or drink before you drive. This means one less distraction while in the car.
  • Know the directions to where you’re going. This includes consulting maps or setting your GPS before you start your trip.
  • Adjust your seat and mirrors.
  • Keep any reading materials out of sight to limit the opportunity for distraction.
  • Ensure nothing is rolling around in your car when you drive.
  • Make sure children and other passengers have everything they need before you start the car.
  • Pets should be caged or otherwise secured in the back seat.
  • If you need to turn or your vehicle heater or air conditioning, do so before leaving for your destination.
  • Set your radio or music player prior to driving.
While Driving Your Vehicle:
  • Whenever possible, don’t rush when you drive. A relaxed trip to your destination generally means a less stressed and distracted ride.
  • Exit traffic and park your vehicle if you intend to use your cell phone or any other electronic device.
  • If you drop something, do not attempt to pick it up while driving. If you have dropped something important to operating the car, such as your glasses, pull the car over in a safe area as soon as it can be accomplished and deal with the problem once the car is parked.
  • Listening to the directions given by your GPS device can be less distracting than looking at it.
  • Misbehaving children are not an excuse to divide your attention. Any situation requiring your attention needs to be dealt with when the car is parked.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, or attempt to groom yourself while driving.
  • If you do need to stop your car, select a safe place such as a parking lot to do so.
  • If you’re tired, park your car in a safe place and rest. Although not technically distracted driving, falling asleep at the wheel is one of the most dangerous things that can happen.
  • Focus on the task of driving your car. There’s a lot at stake and it requires your full attention.

Fines and Penalties

  • British Columbia*:
    What is banned? Hand-held devices, plus novice drivers using hands-free equipment.
    Demerit -  4
    Fine - $543** first offense, $888*** second offense
  • Alberta:
    What is banned? Holding or viewing a communications device, reading, writing, and any other distraction.
    Demerit -  3
    Fine - $287
  • Saskatchewan:
    What is banned? Hand-held communication equipment, plus novice drivers going hands-free.
    Demerit - 4
    Fine - $280
  • Manitoba:
    What is banned? Hand-held electronic devices.
    Demerit - 5
    Fine - $672
  • Ontario*:
    What is banned? Hand-held wireless communication devices.
    Demerit - 3-6
    Fine - $1,000-$3,000
  • Quebec:
    What is banned? Hand-held devices that include a phone function, plus using it hands-free.
    Demerit - 4
    Fine - $300-$600
  • New Brunswick:
    What is banned? Hand-held electronic devices.
    Demerit - 3
    Fine - $172.50
  • Nova Scotia:
    What is banned? Hand-held cell phones, plus text messaging on any device.
    Demerit - 4
    Fine - $233.95-$578.95 
  • Prince Edward Island:
    What is banned? Hand-held wireless communication devices.
    Demerit - 5
    Fine - $575-$1,275
  • Newfoundland/Labrador:
    What is banned? Hand-held cell phones, plus text messaging on any device.
    Demerit - 4
    Fine - $300-$1,000
  • Yukon:
    What is banned? Hand-held devices for talking, texting, and emailing, plus graduated licence holders can't go hands-free.
    Demerit - 3
    Fine - $500
  • Northwest Territories:
    What is banned? Hand-held electronic device.
    Demerit - 3
    Fine - $322-$644****
  • Nunavut
    What is banned? None.
    Demerit - None.
    Fine - None.

Sources: Various government transportation websites, CAA - January 7, 2019.

*In addition to banning hand-held communication devices, British Columbia and Ontario also ban the use of hand-held electronic entertainment devices while driving.

**B.C.’s base fine is $368 plus $175 for ICBC’s driver penalty point premiums

***A second offense within 12 months has a base fine of $368 plus $520 for ICBC’s driver penalty point premiums. Repeat offenders will also have their driving record subject to automatic review, which could result in a 3-12 month driving prohibition.

****The fine increases to $644 for distracted driving in school and construction zones.

Did you know? Even using a cell phone while stopped at a red light is considered distracted driving and subject to a fine and other penalties. The only time it may be permissible to drive and use a cell phone is when you need to report an emergency.

Different provinces and territories have different definitions of what constitutes distracted driving. Please consult the appropriate government websites for specific inclusions.

Conclusion

Operating a motor vehicle must be approached with caution and your full respect. Every time you drive a car, you assume responsibility for the lives and safety of yourself, your passengers, and those around you. That is why it is important to always give your complete attention when operating a motor vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration & Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2006), driver distraction is a factor in about 4,000,000 motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. This statistic was compiled despite a lack of direct evidence of distracted driving coming from many crash scene investigations. For example, if a driver crashes into a ditch for no apparent reason, under what are described as ideal driving conditions, there is still no way to confirm driver distraction is what caused the accident. Regardless of whether 4,000,000 is an accurate representation of the number of yearly crashes attributable to distracted driving, staying focused on the task of operating your vehicle will help prevent you from becoming a part of the statistic.