President’s Perspective – Driver distraction

Driving is one of the most dangerous tasks we perform on a daily basis, and the two most common causes for traffic collisions are inattention and distraction. Distraction from talking on the phone, sending text messages, or using any other device that takes focus off the road are among the most distracting.

With Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec already having hand-held cellphone bans in effect, Ontario is following suit, but going a step further – Ontario is banning all hand-held electronic devices. This includes cellphones, Blackberry’s, mp3 players, GPS’s, and others – a definite step in the right direction. Saskatchewan is readying its own legislation, and British Columbia has announced its intention to do the same.

Within our busy lives, electronic devices are enabling drivers to stay connected and in constant contact with others at all times, leading to a greater exposure and risk of collision if used while driving. Having legislation in place will help educate people and change behaviour to reduce their risk exposure.

As technology evolves and text and e-mail messaging become more prevalent, the situation worsens. Sending and receiving text messages is one of the most dangerous threats to drivers since alcohol. A driver is 23 times more likely to get into a collision if they text when they are 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.

A public service announcement originating in the UK shows the tragic effects of text messaging while driving. (Warning: this is a shock value PSA)

For 21 years the Canada Safety Council has been instrumental in the promotion of cellular phone safety while driving. We encourage all Canadians to limit distractions while driving a motor vehicle, including scrolling through an iPod list, programming a GPS, or sending text messages. If you need to answer a phone call, pull over to a safe area, or have a hands-free device set-up for easy answering. Better yet – have your message center take the call or read your text messages once you have reached your destination. Also, keep in mind that hands-free is not risk free! We recognize that electronic devices are distractions, but it’s really 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 on the road.

Safety, It’s an Attitude,

Jack Smith, President