Nobody wants to admit to their bad behavior, but we’re all a little guilty of bending the rules when it comes to our actions behind the wheel. And the longer you’ve been driving, the more bad habits you’ve picked up along the way. But there is one driving danger that is causing more accidents and more road fatalities than any other - and you’re probably guilty of it.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that distracted driving caused caused 83 road fatalities in 2017, making it the deadliest driving behavior for the fifth consecutive year. Deaths caused by distracted driving surpassed those caused by speeding (75), alcohol and drug use (46), and lack of seat belt use (49).
Do you know what counts as distracted driving? In Ontario, it’s illegal to operate hand-held devices (such as smartphones and MP3 players) while you’re driving, or to view display screens that are unrelated to your driving. And if you think it’s okay to check your device while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign, you’re wrong - that’s also prohibited under the law.
To put in context how even a short text message can cause a huge distraction, consider this example: typing the note “home in ten” only takes four and a half seconds, but if you’re driving 90 kilometers an hour on the highway, you’ll travel the length of a football field without looking at the road.
It’s not just law enforcement officials who are concerned about this dangerous behavior. One poll showed that texting and driving is now tied with impaired driving as the top road safety concern for Canadians. In that same poll, 83 percent of Canadians reported that they believe distracted driving is worse now than it was three years ago.
To combat this problem, provincial governments across the country are crafting tougher distracted driving laws to try and deter drivers from using their phone behind the wheel. For example, in Ontario, distracted driving laws that will be coming into effect means there will be an increase in fines and demerit points. Under that same law, drivers will see an automatic license suspension - even for a first offense.
People who are convicted of distracted driving will also suffer the next time they look for an insurance quote, since even one offense can increase their premium. In British Columbia, two distracted driving convictions in a span of three years will soon increase a driver’s premium by a whopping $2000.
If you are guilty of checking your phone while behind the wheel, there are a few steps you can take to end to this dangerous - and expensive - habit. First, only accept calls through a hands-free device - but keep those conversations short, since they can still distract you from the road. If you know you’re tempted by text message alerts, put your phone on silent while you’re driving, or hide it in the glove compartment for the duration of your trip. If you have an iPhone, consider using the Do Not Disturb function. If you’re driving with a passenger, ask them to respond to messages or phone calls if necessary.
While law enforcement officials hope that tougher laws will curb distracted driving, the statistics show that people are checking their phones despite the risks - so it’s up to all drivers to change their behavior and help keep our roads safe.