Keep your eyes on the road! Or do you?? I know getting distracted while driving is easy…too easy in fact. Looking at your dashboard, checking the temperature inside the car, changing the music station or shuffling the menu of your iPod, checking your GPS, or worst, reading text or texting while driving. All contribute to a potential accident. We all like to say that we are safe drivers, always paying attention, and looking out for cars, pedestrians, and lights, but sometimes our slightest actions take our attention off the road. Looking away from the road for two seconds doubles a driver’s odds for being involved in a collision. In 80% of collisions, a study found that the driver had looked away from the road for 3 seconds prior to the crash. Even when using a hands-free phone, you are less aware of the traffic around you and tend to react more slowly to a critical event or worse, may not detect the danger at all.
Causes of distracted driving
Different age groups are distracted by different things. A study by the University of Carolina Highway Safety Research Center found that younger drivers are more likely to get distracted by changing or surfing through their music, while those in their 30s are more often distracted by young kids in the car, and older drivers are often distracted by something outside the vehicle.
In North America alone, driver distraction counts for about 4 million motor vehicle crashes each year. Internationally, 20% to 30% of all collisions are caused by distracted driving. In British Columbia in 2010, distracted driving caused 104 collision fatalities, in the U.S., 84% of driving fatalities were tied to carelessness or inattentiveness. Distracted drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a crash than attentive drivers. If you are texting, you are 23 times more likely to crash than someone that’s not, add passenger children in the car, that are 8 times more distracting than adult passengers, and you’ve got a recipe for mortal disaster. If you are talking on a cell phone, you are 4 to 5 times more likely to crash. Reading, applying makeup, dialling on your cellphone makes you 3 times more likely to crash. Some may seem less harmful than others but in essence, they all are. As you are driving distracted, there are many others on the road in the same situation. With all of them combined, the results are deadly. It is no excuse to justify contributing to one distraction over another as the likelihood of crashing is lesser. Drivers must be aware that there are numerous hazards present in both all driving environments. Being inattentive impacts your ability to recognise, react and avoid the road hazards.
CAA’s top distractions
- Outside object/person/event — 29.9%
- Adjusting radio/CD — 11.4%
- Other vehicle occupants — 10.9%
- Something moving in the car — 4.3%
- Using another object/device — 2.9%
- Adjusting car’s climate controls — 2.8%
- Eating/drinking — 1.7%
- Cellular phones — 1.5%
Other common distractions
- Passengers and conversation
- Active passengers (animals or children)
- Personal communication devices
- Computers, information and navigation systems
- Listening to vehicle stereo
- Reading road/street signs and advertising
- Locating addresses (reading map or directions)
- Personal grooming
- Eating and drinking
- Adjusting vehicle controls (AC, heat, music, etc.)
- Electronic vehicle comfort features
- Other vehicles and cyclists
- Other driver behavior/actions
- Construction (road/building)
- Collision sites and emergency vehicles
- Street noise (siren, horns, etc.)
The “Cell phone ban”
Bill 118 and Ontario Regulation 366/09 took effect on October 26, 2009, making it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held devices. This covers anything from typing or talking on your cellphone, to programming your GPS, to having display screens such as DVD players, tablets, laptops, visible to the driver.
In Ontario, drivers found using any hand-held device can face fines of up to $500. You can also be charged with careless driving , which if convicted of, will automatically receive six demerit points, fines up to $1000 and a possible jail term of six months. In some cases, a driver’s license may be suspended for up to two years.
To avoid these fines, use a hands-free communication device such as an earpiece with a speakerphone or bluetooth device, GPS screens that operate in hands-free mode.
Preventing distracted driving
To keep yourself, your vehicle and others around you in and out of your car safe, follow these simple tips. If you’re a book-worm, put all reading material in the trunk. Secure potentially moving objects in emergency brake situations such as bags, purses, coats in the trunk or safely tucked away on the floor in the backseat. Leave your shaving, makeup and nail polish at home or once you get to work to complete. You may not look your best at your arrival, but at least you’ll be there in one piece. grooming before leaving. Plug in the route into your GPS before you back out of your driveway, and if the route changes, pull over and enter it in or if accompanied by an adult, ask them to do it for you. Preset the car’s climate, radio and music prior to takeoff, and ensure your phone is connected to your car’s bluetooth so you are not using your handheld while driving. If you’re hungry, or thirsty, just like when you need to go to the washroom, park the car on the side or at a rest area and indulge into your snack or meal. Finally, if you are in a heated or emotionally engaging conversation or argument, put a halt to it until your arrival or for a time when you are not behind the wheel.
If you are driving long distances, get enough sleep before leaving. If you are more than one, switch drivers. If you are alone, plan to take a break to refresh. Avoid driving at night, it’s best to leave in daylight to keep you alert.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to take the Billings Bridge Shopping Centre “Drive in Style” pledge, between May 20 and the 24th, to make a difference in driving and on our roads. Not only will you be contributing to the wellness of the community, but you have a chance to win one of several prizes by vouching for something that will keep you and others around you safe.
Emily Simms says
I get distracted while driving a lot, but I don’t use my phone or mp3 player when driving. I use the satellite radio and that’s mainly about it. I like listening to audio books though, especially on long drives. Much easier to deal with.
The Wardrobe Stylist says
It’s kind of nice to have someone read a book for you…reminds me of childhood.