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Pay attention, it’s a circus out there!

May 21, 2010 | Campaigns, National Road Safety Week, Vehicle & Road Safety

From cell phones and global positioning systems (GPS) to mp3 players and your morning coffee, distracted road users is an issue facing all Canadians. Whether you are a driver, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian or a cyclist, road user distractions affect everyone.

During National Road Safety Week the Canada Safety Council wants you to take precautions while you are out and about. Keep your eyes on the road and on other road users. Be vigilant and stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

During the spring and summer months it is especially important for car and truck drivers to keep their eyes on the road, as vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists) are more prevalent on Canadian roads. They are at greater risk of potential injury or death should they become involved in a collision on Canada’s roadways. Vulnerable road users make up approximately 25 per cent of road users killed or seriously injured each year in traffic crashes. In 2007, 662 vulnerable road users were killed and 3,485 were seriously injured.

Drivers must be aware of pedestrians crossing at intersections and people coming out between parked cars, especially small children. Drivers must also share the road with cyclists and motorcyclists. If you are distracted by a ringing phone or trying to program your GPS it becomes harder to react and avoid potential collisions with vulnerable road users. It is essential to limit your distractions behind the wheel to ensure the safety of you, other drivers, and vulnerable road users.

Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba all have hand-held cell phone legislation in effect. Within the past year Ontario, B.C., and PEI have gone a step further and introduced a ban on all hand-held devices, not just hand-held cell phones. Distracting activities that take your eyes off the road are more likely to lead to collisions. This law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, or dial using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices. This includes using GPS, mp3 players (iPods), and entertainment devices with a display screen visible to the driver while he or she is driving. These devices can be used if programmed before starting to drive.

Teens and young adults under 35 are the most frequent users of cell phones while driving. Studies show that a driver using a cell phone is four times more likely to be in a crash than a driver focused on the road. Other studies show that dialing and texting carries the highest degree of risk of all cell phone-related activities. A driver is 23 times more likely to get into a collision if they are texting or typing behind the wheel. Text messaging takes driver’s eyes away from the road for 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval. This compares to driving an entire length of a football field without looking at the road while travelling 90 kilometres per/hour.

Canada Safety Council urges you to always make driving your first priority. Hands-free is not risk free. When you’re talking on a telephone, whether it’s hands-free or hands-held, the attention is to the conversation and less on the road. It’s the conversation, and the depth of the conversation, that’s distracting. Don’t let your emotions or work get in the way of your safety and the safety of other road users while behind the wheel.

Here are a few basic safety tips from Canada Safety Council:

  • Avoid unnecessary distractions and always make the driving task your top priority.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel or the handle bars and keep your eyes on the road and looking for potential hazards.
  • Turn your phone on silent so you are not tempted to answer it if you receive a call or a message.
  • Learn how to program and operate your hands-free device without the need to look at it.
  • Don’t get so wrapped up in conversation that you drift into the other lane. Pull off the road if safe and legal to do so; this is critical if it’s an important or emotional conversation.
  • Keep conversations brief by telling the caller that you are driving so that you can return your full attention to the task ASAP.
  • Drive defensively; watch out for other road users who are not paying attention.
  • Always be on the lookout for and yield to vulnerable road users, even if they don’t have the right-of-way.
  • Be prepared for inexperienced and vulnerable road users to appear unexpectedly at both intersection and non-intersection locations, on both urban and rural roadways.
  • As a vulnerable road user it is important to be visible and predictable to others.

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For more information, please contact:

Raynald Marchand, General Manger – Programs
613) 739-1535 (ext. 226)

Valerie Powell, Communications and Media Coordinator(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)

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