Yesterday was the first of April which never fails to bring jokes and laughter in light of April Fool’s Day. However, one thing that is no laughing matter is distracted driving. Yesterday was also the start of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which according to the National Safety Council, is a “united effort to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving.”
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) says that distracted driving is a factor in approximately four million crashes every year in North America. Ontario’s provincial police force, OPP, says that it is still the leading cause of collisions in the province - even more so than impaired driving. This also goes for Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.
The problem with distracted driving is that it’s difficult to catch, unlike impaired driving where someone’s blood alcohol level and abnormal driving behaviors indicates intoxication. In cases of distracted driving, police officers must physically see the driver in the act before they can pull them over. Unfortunately, the damage is usually already done before the distracted driver is caught.
According to CAA, drivers using their cellphones to text are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash while talking on the phone is believed to increase risk by 4 times. What’s worse is that 33% of Canadians admit they’ve texted while stopped at a light, even though they believe distracted driving is unacceptable.
So, let’s clarify: what is considered distracted driving? Well it’s simple – it’s anything that takes your full attention away from driving! That means the buzzing of your phone on your passenger seat, your finnicky GPS that you keep having to adjust, that coffee you keep sipping on your way to work, but worst of all, those texts and phone calls you seem to think can’t possibly wait until you’ve reached your destination. It also includes that 33% of Canadians who think texting while stopped at a light is okay; it’s not.
These are all small choices you make on your route that could drastically change yours and someone else’s life in an instant. In seconds, that text you had to answer or that sip of coffee you just had to take could lead to serious injury or death.
Legally, you are allowed to use hands-free wireless communication devices, glance at display screen on GPS units and call 911 while behind the wheel. But this isn’t just about legality, it’s about saving lives. Put down the phone, stop playing with the GPS, and focus on the road. You’re exercising a huge responsibility behind that wheel and you need to save your full attention for what’s going on in front of you!