National road safety week
Be honest. Have you ever checked your phone when it alerted you to a new text while you were driving? Maybe you’ve typed an address into Google Maps or glanced at a map to look for directions when you were behind the wheel. How about checking your make-up or fixing your hair in the rear-view mirror? It only takes a few seconds to cause an accident when you take your eyes off the road.
During National Road Safety Week, the Canada Safety Council is asking Canadian drivers to be aware of distracted driving and to do your part to keep our roads safe.
Distract driving is more than texting while driving
Distracted driving can include any activity that commands your attention while you are operating a vehicle such as mobile phone use, eating, grooming, reading and using a GPS. If your focus is not on the road, your vehicle can become a destructive machine. Distracted driving leads to slower reaction time, impaired judgment, collisions, injuries and even fatalities.
According to the Canada Safety Council, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation suggests approximately 25% of collisions in 2013 were related to driver distraction. The CAA says that distraction is a factor in approximately 4 million motor vehicle crashes across North America every year.
Distracted driving is illegal
With the exception of Nunavut, distracted driving is illegal in all Canadian provinces and territories. Depending on the province, actions that are illegal while driving may include:
- Typing an address in the GPS, holding your phone to check directions, and reading messages on your phone
- Texting or sending an email
- Holding your mobile phone to take or make a call (Mobile phones must be hands-free and activated by voice or a single touch to the screen if you have to make a call.)
- Using an MP3 player - unless it is already hooked up to the vehicle
- Reading or writing
- Using a screen such as on a laptop, tablet or video game
- In Alberta, it is illegal to apply makeup, shave or floss
In an emergency situation, you are allowed to call 911 with a handheld device.
The penalties for distracted driving include as many as four demerit points in most provinces and fines, which can cost up to $368 for the first offence and up to $888 for multiple offences – depending on the province. In BC, drivers are fined an extra $175 penalty for a first infraction bringing the cost for one ticket to $543.
While distracted driving is not a criminal offence, it can lead to a licence suspension for a novice or drivers with other infractions.
Auto insurance implications
If the threat of losing demerit points and getting a fine isn’t enough, distracted driving could also have an effect on your car insurance premiums.
First of all, if you have a clean driving record and have enjoyed a discount on your payments, a distracted driving ticket will increase your premiums and tarnish your pristine record.
If you’re charged with a driving infraction such as speeding or making an improper lane change while driving distracted, you’ll receive two tickets, which will boost your premiums even more.
Before you drive away, put your phone on mute or store it in the glove box so you are not tempted to answer any incoming calls or check messages.
If you need a GPS or Google Maps to get you to where you’re going, program the destination in first and utilize the vocal directions.
Wait until you’ve stopped and are parked in a safe area to make your calls, check email or send texts. Besides, a break from driving is always a good thing.
Answering that text, taking that call or eating dinner on the go just isn’t worth the risk. Be smart and take care when you’re behind the wheel – for your own safety as well as for those who may be in your vehicle, or others who are sharing the road with you.