Distracted driving accidents continue to plague Canadians, despite increases in fines and demerits for offenders. According to the Government of Canada, economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost workplace productivity are at least $10 billion annually.
Furthermore, the newest generation of drivers – teenage drivers – continually find themselves in precarious situations due to distracted driving. Textinganddrivingsafely.com lists distracted driving as the top cause for accidents involving teens.
While cell phones are the primary culprit leading to distracted driving, applying makeup, reaching for moving objects and reading – yes, reading while driving – also contribute to distracted driving infractions.
In an effort to highlight the distracted driving problem in Canada, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) did some research on the likelihood of being in an accident or near accident while distracted versus driving without distractions. Their findings should give all drivers, regardless of age and perceived driving ability, all the reasons needed to stop distracted driving.
Likelihood of Accident or Near Accident: Distracted vs Not Distracted
- Texting on a cell phone – 23 times more likely
- Talking on a cell phone – 4 to 5 times more likely
- Reading – 3 times more likely
- Applying makeup – 3 times more likely
- Reaching for a moving object – 9 times more likely
- Dialing on a hand-held device – 3 times more likely
Hand-Held Cell Phone Legislation in Canada
Each province, and two-out-of-three territories, have implemented legislation against distracted drivers, through fines and demerit points. The following chart maps the fine amount, number of demerits and the effective date of the legislation for each province and territory.
Distracted Driving vs Drunk Driving
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control ranked Canada no. 1 among 19 wealthy countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment. The study found that 34% of motor vehicle deaths in Canada involved alcohol.
According to MADD Canada, 299,838 individuals were estimated to have been injured in a motor vehicle crash in 2010. Of those, 63,821 injuries were related to impaired driving crashes. That is about 175 injuries per day relating to crashes where alcohol was a factor.
These stats highlight the affect of drunk driving in Canada, while showing just how prominent and deadly alcohol related crashes are in Canada.
That said, textinganddrivingsafety.com cites texting as six times likelier to cause an accident than alcohol. The severity of crashes may not be, arguably, as devastating as alcohol related crashes, but that shouldn't take away from how detrimental, harmful and, potentially, life threatening distracted driving is.
Kicking the Distracted Driving Habit
At the end of the day, all the stats, penalties and fines put in place to deter distracted driving can only reach so far. It boils down to a conscious decision each driver makes to realize the harmful and lasting impacts distracted driving can have and just not do it.
Instead of driving with your phone between your legs or in your hand, put your phone in the glove box. If you think you’d be tempted to reach for it while driving, give it to a passenger and have them let you know if you get any calls or messages. From there, you can pull over at a safe spot and respond to the call or message.
If you’re going to be out for a short period of time, you could also consider leaving your phone at home. It isn't a horrible thing to have a little time away from your phone.
If you need to shave or put on your makeup before work, wake up a few minutes earlier and do it at home, instead of on the road (even if it's a red light). Aside from your driving being safer, your shave or makeup will look better too.
Whatever you need to do, make the change(s) – before it’s too late.