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Readers Weigh in on Distracted Driving

For all those who continue to engage in any form of distracted driving, I urge you to consider your behaviour and put a stop to it.

Cliff Lafreniere By: Cliff Lafreniere July 31, 2019

A recent column I wrote about distracted driving has struck a chord with readers.

I received numerous emails acknowledging that this driving offence is a serious issue and that I overlooked other contributing factors.

One reader, Gael, wrote to inform me about a program she operates called BARC (Buckle up Animal Restraint and Control). BARC is a program that provides educational awareness of the potential dangers associated with unrestrained pets travelling in motor vehicles.

Gael works with volunteers who do information/education booths at events around Toronto promoting the use of animal restraints in motor vehicles to keep pets from becoming projectiles and/or distractions during a sudden stop or accident.

As Gael points out, “How many times have you seen drivers with their dogs sitting on their laps while driving? Drivers are frequently distracted when they have an unrestrained pet in the vehicle by petting, it, feeding it, disciplining it or just turning to see what it is doing.”

Pets can get under the pedals, or jump up on the back of the driver’s seat or into their lap. Pets can be well-behaved, but when unrestrained they become a projectile in a sudden stop or accident. Not only can the pet be injured, but it can also cause injury to other occupants of the vehicle. After an accident, an injured or frightened dog could possibly pose a threat to the first responders when they attempt to enter the vehicle.

The number of pet owners driving with their pets is growing. There are frequent warnings about not leaving pets in cars, but little focus on the need for them to be restrained. You would not allow a child in a vehicle without belting them — why wouldn’t you do the same with a beloved pet?

For more information about BARC, visit: rickross1.wixsite.com/website.

Untethered pets are not the only thing that poses a risk inside a vehicle. A woman I know was struck in the head with an untethered briefcase during an accident. For safety reasons, laptops, coolers, bags of groceries and other potential projectiles should be harnessed while a vehicle is moving.

Another reader pointed out the perils of too much technology implemented into vehicles, as drivers avert their attention to manipulate touchscreen functions on their dashboards.

There is a solution to all this on-board technology: voice command. With Ford vehicles (the brand I represent), a voice-command feature allows drivers to manipulate a range of functions including entertainment (radio and CD players), climate control, GPS navigation (Waze) and phone (calling and texting). Other auto manufacturers offer easy-to-use in-car voice-command features as well.

Sadly, according to Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Highway Safety Division of the OPP, drivers are not getting the message about distracted driving. “Drivers know the dangers of this activity and they know it’s illegal, and yet they continue to do it,” he said to me recently.

“Drivers don’t think it’s their problem; they believe it’s someone else’s problem. Motorists are allowed to touch their mobile phone to answer or end a call, but beyond that point, using it without the aid of a hands-free device constitutes a distracted driving offence.”

Sgt. Schmidt has witnessed other forms of distracted driving as well — motorists reading newspapers, putting garnishes on food, playing with pets and shaving.

Distracted driving activities that do not involve a mobile device fall under the category of careless driving. Drivers charged with careless driving could face fines, driver’s licence suspension and jail time, depending on the severity of the offence.

For all those who continue to engage in any form of distracted driving, I urge you to consider your behaviour and put a stop to it.

distracted driving

This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to president@tada.ca 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.