Mobile device related accidents are the new “DUI.”

How many times have you passed a vehicle and noticed that the driver has his or her eyes on a mobile device, rather than on the road?

Distracted driving has become the leading cause of fatal crashes. It only takes a split second for disaster to ruin your day, and the results of taking the driver’s attention away from the task of controlling the vehicle can lead to havoc on the road and a lifetime of suffering – or the premature end to the lives of innocent people.

It’s worse than you think!

Thousands die each year in distracted driving crashes, but the data does not reveal the full extent of this problem! National Safety Council investigations suggest that these crashes are significantly under-reported! Even though most states and provinces ban texting while driving, drivers who have been in the habit of driving while texting (or texting while driving) indicate that it will take more than laws to change their behaviour.

What is distracted driving? 

This could mean glancing out of the window to look intently at an object outside of the vehicle. It could mean interacting with passengers within the vehicle. You could be trying to interact with an electronic device, eating food or having a drink, or anything else that takes your attention away from driving.

When you take your eyes off the road for 3 seconds while you change the station on your radio you could travel 270 feet and not see where you are going or what other cars around you are doing. Did you turn your head as you talked to your passenger on your right? Do you often look away at scenery? Have you looked at your cell phone to find out who is calling? Think about it. We have all done these things from time to time.

It takes the brain 13 seconds to refocus after using a cell phone. Have you adjusted the air conditioning, or watched the GPS to be sure you are on the right road? Did you eat a hamburger while you were driving? The stats are frightening. Drivers engaged in texting are eight times more likely to be in a crash, drivers talking on the phone are four times more likely to cause a collision compared to non-distracted drivers.

Many of these distractions involve more than simply taking your eyes off the road. In many cases of distracted driving, your hands are off the steering wheel. Did you send a text, watch a video, or fix your makeup? Do you concentrate on your GPS screen because you are driving in unfamiliar territory, afraid of missing a turn? Or even worse, have you ever been distracted by arguing with a passenger about why you missed a turn?

The risk of a collision goes up when a driver’s eyes and attention are taken off the road. According to the RCMP, “distractions can compromise your judgment and affect your ability to drive.” This is because distraction impairs performance and reduces a driver’s awareness. It makes drivers slower to notice risks and less able to safely respond to critical events on the road – or they may miss them entirely.

Each province has slightly different rules. In Ontario, it is illegal to talk on a cell phone or use a handheld device to view a screen or input information. That means no texting, web browsing, interacting with maps, or otherwise using your cell phone or smart phone while driving. Even if your vehicle is stationary at a stop sign or red light, it is still illegal to use these electronic devices and you may be subject to a distracted driving penalty.

Hands-free wireless devices equipped with an earpiece using Bluetooth or other wireless technology can be used while driving. However, you should keep your full attention on operating the vehicle and the roadway ahead of you. A GPS display screen can be used only if it is built into the vehicle’s dashboard and does not require the driver to take their attention from the roadway.

According to data from Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, distracted driving contributes to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions and 27% of serious injury collisions. These statistics are part of an upward trend of distracted driving-related collisions, up from 16% of fatal collisions and 22% of serious injury collisions a decade earlier.

Approximately 61% of drivers said they would need to be involved in a near-miss – and 59% said they would have to be involved in a fatal crash – to be convinced not to use technology while driving. More than 65% of drivers would be willing to turn around and go back home to get their phone if they realized they did not have it within the first 15 minutes of driving.

This is not an unusual situation. Surveys show that 81% of drivers have seen other drivers almost cause a crash because they were distracted. The data shows that 59% of respondents say pressure from family would motivate them to answer or make a cell phone call while driving. Nearly 14% of drivers admitted they would participate in a video chat or watch streaming video if there were no laws prohibiting it. Unfortunately, 32% of drivers still think they can use their phone safely if they pay attention to the road… they are wrong.

Change your habits!

Never text while driving, even when you are stopped in traffic or at a traffic light. If you must send or receive a call or text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first. Avoid using any device that may take your attention away from watching the road.

Transport Canada has created guidelines to help reduce distraction from visual displays in vehicles. This report recommends how to safely design, install, and use in-vehicle visual displays. These guidelines apply to visual displays drivers use while their vehicle is moving. In some instances, the guidelines recommend that you block visual access to more distracting displays while the vehicle is moving. In other cases, they recommend that interactions and tasks be simplified in a way that helps to reduce distraction.

Every year, distracted drivers are responsible for about 2.5 million car crashes. In the United States, about 9 people are killed every day due to car crashes that involved talking on a phone, and over 1,000 people are injured every day in crashes caused by distracted driving.

In Ontario, fines for distracted driving can be broken down as follows: $615 ticket for first time offenders. If you attempt to dispute the ticket and lose the dispute, your fine can increase to as much as $1,000. Second offenders can receive a 7-day driver’s license suspension and six demerit points. ‘Three times and you’re out’ – earns you a 30-day license suspension and six demerit points. If you dispute the ticket and lose, your fine can increase to $3,000. For novice drivers in Ontario with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, suspensions can be even longer, and the driver faces the possibility of revocation of their permit.

If you are involved in an accident and it is determined that you were driving distracted, you can be charged with careless or dangerous driving, which carries much harsher penalties. Should you be found to be at fault in the accident due to your distracted driving, you may be liable for damages and medical expenses incurred because of your distracted driving.

“The frequency of drivers engaging in improper behaviour is too high. While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel like texting, are dangerous, some do it anyway,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “We need to be aware of the serious consequences of engaging in these types of dangerous driving behavior and change course.”

Before you drive, allow plenty of time to reach your destination, program your GPS and check the driving route, make sure to stow and secure all objects, and be sure children have all the things that they need for the trip.  

Subscribe to our email newsletter and never miss another update!