Distracted Driving still a Major Cause of Fatalities and Injuries
Why is distracted driving so prevalent despite the known dangers and warnings?
As motorists plan road trips and vacations this summer, now is a good time to deliver a message about the dangers of distracted driving.
Almost every day, I see drivers with their phones pressed against their ears, and I wonder why the message is not getting through. What will it take to change this type of driver behaviour?
In recent years, drivers have gotten sneaky with their phones. They place them in their lap and on the passenger seat, stealing glances whenever the coast is clear. But police are using crafty strategies for catching these offenders, such as riding in unmarked cars, standing on highway overpasses and disguising themselves as construction workers.
Despite police “zero tolerance” blitzes, education campaigns and tough financial penalties, distracted driving is still the leading cause of fatalities and injuries on roads in Ontario. Canada wide, it accounts for 25 per cent of all road fatalities.
Sadly, those statistics have remained consistent for the past few years.
To be clear, distracted driving covers any activity behind the wheel that averts a driver’s attention. That could be texting without the aid of a hands-free device, scrolling for messages, playing with a CD player, reading emails, shaving, applying makeup or looking through a glovebox.
Drivers may feel that some of these activities are harmless, but they are not. Taking your eyes off the road for even a split second can lead to a serious collision or fatality. According to the CAA, “checking a text for five seconds means that at 90 km/h you’ve travelled the length of a football field blindfolded.”
If caught committing a distracted driving infraction, you could be charged with careless driving or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Drivers who are caught talking on a phone, texting, dialing or emailing using a hand-held device will face fines of up to $1,000 with a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points. Drivers who have one or more distracted driving convictions face higher fines and penalties.
In addition to the financial penalties and possible jail sentences, distracted driving can result in physical injuries, property damage, health expenses and rising insurance costs.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation reports, “The economic and social consequence of road crashes in Canada is estimated to be $25 billion per year, including direct and indirect cost, as well as pain and suffering.”
Why is distracted driving so prevalent despite the known dangers and warnings? Some have suggested that on-board electronics are too distracting, while others have said that drivers are too addicted to their devices.
A recent article in Forbes suggested that phone addiction is actually “a thing.” Forty-seven per cent of people polled in a survey admitted they were phone addicts.
What will it take to change this dangerous driving activity? Police departments, government agencies, automotive associations (including the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association) and insurance companies have done a great job advocating against distracted driving, and they need to keep advocating.
The TADA is committed to advocating against distracted driving, and it supports campaigns with that consistent message, in order to achieve a goal of zero tolerance.
All motorists need to remind themselves that operating a motor vehicle on public roadways requires their full attention at all times. The slightest distraction, however justified in a driver’s mind, could instantly lead to tragedy and alter lives forever.
If you are a driver who continues to indulge in any form of distracted driving, please know that you are jeopardizing your life and the lives of others, and you need to stop that behaviour immediately.
On behalf of the TADA, think safety first and avoid all distractions while you are behind the wheel.
This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to email@example.com or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.