Distracted driving passes drunk driving in road fatalities

by | Oct 16, 2015 | Opinion

Brianne Cail
Life Editor

Around a quarter of fatal vehicular crashes in Ontario for 2015, as of March, have been caused by distracted driving.

According to Ontario Provincial Police numbers from 2013, distracted driving now causes more deaths than impaired driving.

And yet drivers still aren’t getting the message.

I refuse to get into a car with someone who’s been drinking, a stance I’m sure most people would agree with, and yet we continue to drive with friends who are texting.

I always ask the person to put down their phone or offer to text for them if it’s really urgent. We’ve allowed distracted driving to be more socially acceptable than impaired driving when studies now show they’re both fatal.

Distracted driving involves anything that takes your attention off the road and the other cars around you.

Research done by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation shows that drivers who use their cell phones are four times more likely to be in a collision.

According to Ontario’s driving law, it’s against the law to operate any hand-held communication and electronic device while driving; this includes looking at display screens, using a GPS, a music player, laptops and DVD players.

Driving while using a laptop might not be part of your commute but the use of smart phones while driving is becoming increasingly, and alarmingly, popular, especially among teens.

A 2014 survey done by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found more than one-third of licensed Ontario students between grades 10 and 12 admitted to texting while driving in the previous year at least once.

Anyone texting and driving concerns me but these are the new drivers on the road who should be well aware of the laws and dangers involved.

What confuses me even more is the latest technology ‘advancement’ from Chevrolet. You can respond to texts with voice and with the use of a display screen. While the hands-free option is legal, you still have to focus on what the message is saying and how to respond.

Texting isn’t the only thing that people are doing with their phones now either; there are apps and videos that people think are more important than keeping their eyes on the road.

Snapchat, an app that allows you to send videos and pictures to your friends as well as post them as a story, has drivers taking videos as they drive and broadcasting them. I have several people on Snapchat who do this daily, and it’s with their phones in one hand and using their other hand to talk or dance instead of having both hands on the wheel.

I can’t understand why anyone would want to broadcast how irresponsible a driver they are and at the same time put themselves and others in danger.

Awareness isn’t the issue.

A poll done by the CAA found that 90 per cent of Canadians say that texting and driving isn’t acceptable. But in that same poll, 22 per cent of them admitted to reading or sending a text while driving.

We can agree that that it’s dangerous, but people still continue to allow themselves to participate in this behavior while behind the wheel.

True, as of September 1, 2015 the fines and penalties for distracted driving increased once again.

A fully licensed driver receives a fine for $490 for distracted driving if settled outside of court, and up to $1000 if you unsuccessfully fight your ticket, as well as the loss of three demerit points.

Yet we don’t yet know if even these greatly increased fines will do the job. I don’t know what the government can do further to stop this practice and that troubles me.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at a stop sign or if you’re driving down a street you travel daily and know well.

When you’re not focusing fully on the road you are not being safe. Texting and driving or any form of distraction puts yourself and others on the road in danger.