A busy highway at dawn, with many cars, vans and trucks driving around a curve.

The Alarming Facts of Distracted Driving

January 28, 2020 / Sarah Manley

How many times have you set out on your daily commute, only to arrive at home or work not remembering the drive? For those facing the same, boring drive every day, this happens more than you’d think. So it begs the question - if you don’t remember much of the drive, how attentive were you while driving? And if you happened to be talking on the phone during your commute using your hands-free device (i.e. Bluetooth) chances are you were even more inattentive and distracted. We’ve all been unintentionally guilty of this at one point… we may have looked while we’re driving, but not actually have seen what was happening around us. Like it or not, this is distracted driving.

In Ontario, it’s illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using cell phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices while operating a motor vehicle. Despite this ban, the issue continues to persist.

Last year CAA conducted a study on the subject and discovered that 91% of respondents said distracted driving is becoming more common. What’s alarming is 43% of drivers admitted to using hand-held devices, like a cell phone or GPS, while driving.1 These numbers suggest that while there is an awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, people just can’t resist their phones.

Distracted driving has played a direct role in major road collisions, including those involving fatalities. In the United States, AAA research has found that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text while driving, and 4 times more likely if you talk on a cell phone – hand-held or hands-free. A distracted driver can fail to see up to 50% of the available information in the driving environment.

CAA’s study found that drivers justify using their cell phones because they were either at a red light or stuck in traffic. But this still constitutes distracted driving and, even at low speeds, collisions are possible. People think they have the ability to quickly glance at their phones, but the reality is that it only takes a few seconds of taking your eyes off the road for a collision to happen.

Most of society understands that drunk driving is socially unacceptable. Drivers are aware of the dangers of distracted driving… but they still do it. People need to change their mindset so that it’s just as socially unacceptable as driving impaired.

For over 100 years, CAA has advocated for numerous road-safety related causes and changes, including mandatory seat belts, school safety zones and road safety improvements. Today, along with fellow traffic safety partners, we are working to raise awareness about the dangerous behaviours, and consequences, associated with distracted driving. And you can help.

As the trusted advisor to your customers, you can play a role in advocating our message. A few tips you can offer:

  • Distracted Driving can result in significant fines and demerit points, and even License Suspension. Click here to learn more about the various penalties that can be enforced by province.
  • Convictions can result in an increase in insurance premiums, or even the availability of insurance.
  • Recommend avoiding all types of distractions, including:
    • Using a cell phone in any capacity (texting, talking both hand-held and hands-free)
    • Using a GPS
    • Eating
    • Grooming
    • Tuning or adjusting your stereo
    • Dealing with kids or pets in the car
    • Driving when tired, physically or mentally
  • Recommend they set up their phones to decline texts while driving. This feature was included with my phone – when connected to my car’s Bluetooth, and I receive a message, a text is automatically returned saying “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.” Here are some apps that can be set up to stop texting while driving:
  • Share the statistics: In 2016, over 30,000 people were injured and over 300 killed by distracted drivers, and these numbers are only increasing.2

If we all have a voice with Canadian drivers, we can work towards the increased awareness that is so desperately needed, keeping our roads, and each other, safe.

For more information and resources, click here

1 Distracted Driving Study, January 2019 conducted by Campaign Research for CAA South Central Ontario.

2 National Collision Database