Distracted driver looking at cellphone while driving

Distracted Driving Now Twice As Deadly As Alcohol.

October 07, 2016 / Alesandro Trani

On the road, staying safe means staying alert – and avoiding potential distractions which interfere with your driving. After all, what could go wrong in just a few seconds? Depending on your vehicle’s speed, a lot.

In a few seconds, you could drive the length of a football field without seeing what may lie directly in your path, such as a signal change or another vehicle. Or a child on a bike.

As smartphones and other multimedia devices pervade our lives, it should come as no surprise that the number of lives lost to distracted driving this year is set to double that of alcohol-related deaths.

The ominous trend draws on traffic fatality statistics collected as of mid-August. According to the OPP, driver inattention was a factor in almost 40 deaths, compared to just 19 deaths involving an impaired driver.

“Don’t be a passenger of a distracted driver. Recognize that they are endangering your life. Speak up and insist that they focus on the road and on safe driving,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair in a press release issued days before the Labour Day weekend — and for good reason.

One recent study showed that fatal crash rates rise almost 20% on holiday weekends compared to non-holiday weekends. Riding with a distracted driver, especially without buckling up, only adds to the problem.

Since 2009, nearly 600 people have been killed in distraction-related crashes — equivalent to one death every four days on Ontario’s roads. Sadly, much of the carnage is avoidable. Texting, talking, reading, reaching for food or beverages, or moving items — any behaviour that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off driving — constitutes a dangerous driving distraction which every driver should avoid.

How To Curb Driver Distractions.

Common, everyday behaviours we take for granted are often deadly behind the wheel. Why? Because drivers make approximately 200 decisions for every mile they drive. Driving is a complex task that combines several functions of the brain — from visuospatial perception to muscle reflexes, memory, and cognition.

Safety should be your top priority every time you drive. To avoid common distractions, remember:

  1. Do not text, surf the web or read emails. Texting increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.

  2. Minimize conversations with passengers and allow phone calls to go to voicemail. Conversations reduce a driver’s visual focus and responsiveness by 30%.

  3. Avoid writing, eating, drinking or other behaviours that take your hands off the wheel. You have, on average, ¾ of a second to react to a crash. Don’t waste it reaching for the wheel.

  4. Stay alert, stay alive. Drowsiness slows reaction times while diminishing focus and judgment — just like alcohol.

  5. Always wear your seatbelt. In a crash, unbelted occupants have virtually no protection from colliding with other passengers, the vehicle interior, or being ejected from the vehicle.