According to government statistics, one person in Canada is injured in a distracted driving collision every 30 minutes. Police warn that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, but it appears many Canadians aren’t getting the message.
February is Distracted Driving Month in Alberta with police and RCMP stepping up their enforcement and education programs. They have their work cut out for them; in 2017, almost 25,000 Albertans were convicted of distracted driving. The penalty carries a $287.00 fine and three demerit points.
The RCMP says distracted driving is a form of impaired driving as a driver’s judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Distracted driving includes; talking on a mobile phone, texting, reading (e.g. books, maps, and newspapers), using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating/drinking, smoking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio/CD and playing extremely loud music. Even talking to passengers and driving while fatigued (mentally and/or physically) can be forms of distracted driving.
As well as creating more hazards are the roads, distracting driving is impacting insurance rates. One insurance company, Aviva, reports that in 2018 claims in Alberta for distracted-driving accidents rose 58 per cent in the past two years, the highest rate in the country.
“Despite increased penalties and awareness on this issue, too many Canadians are still driving distracted behind the wheel. The majority of these accidents are preventable – such as hitting stationary objects, rear ending other vehicles and inattentive lane changes,” says Phil Gibson, Chief Underwriting Officer at Aviva Canada.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that drivers in the 35 to 44 age group had the highest number of distracted driving convictions (6,715 out of 27,417 convictions, or 24.5 per cent). This was the case for both male and female drivers.
Out of the 27,417 total convictions, 17,947 or 65.5% involved male drivers and 34.5% female.
Using a cellphone was and remains, by far, the most common distracted action by motorists in Alberta making up 24,075 (or 87.8 per cent) of total convictions.
Aviva Canada has developed some tips to avoid being a distracted driver:
- Prepare your music playlist, podcast, or audio book ahead of time
- Keep your phone out of reach
- Enable your phone’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature of you have one
- Avoid eating while driving
- Take the time to learn to use your car’s voice commands
- Keep pets safely secured in the back seat or in a crate
- Prepare for your drive before you leave.