The impact of distractions on the Canadian driver

We've all done at least one of these things while driving and some of us do them daily: put on makeup, shave, flip through songs, text message, or use your cell phone. Even though you know to 'keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel', you've multitasked before without incident so why worry now - right? A study from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) suggests there is reason to worry.

According to the study (released in January, 2007), when the IBC conducted on-road trials with both novice and experienced drivers using cell phones, both were slower to detect hazards, even though both groups slowed down in an attempt to compensate for their distraction. As stated by the IBC president "driving while talking on a cell phone or otherwise distracted has become one of the most serious road safety issues in the country today".

And the IBC has more than just their on-road trials to back this claim. Did you know other studies have shown that:

  • drivers on cellphones-hand-held or hands-free-are 4 times more likely to crash?
  • nearly 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within 3 seconds before the event?
  • 8 out of 10 crashes where a report was filed with the police, driver distraction was a factor?
  • during rush hour, drivers are inundated with about 3,000 items to keep on top of, including signs, traffic lights, other vehicles, passengers, pedestrians, plus road and weather conditions?
Is it any wonder then a distracted driver might be involved in more accidents and fender benders?

Distracted drivers south of the border

In the US, researcher David Strayer of the University of Utah says that using a cell phone while driving, is like drinking and driving. "The impairment from cell phone use can be as profound as the impairment you see when someone is driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08%", says Strayer. Strayer also found that hands-free devices don't improve driver concentration, citing that it is the conversation that distracts drivers.

It is estimated that 284,000 distracted drivers are involved in serious crashes each year, according to a study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. This study looked at all of the things that distract us while driving and found that: 29.4 per cent were distracted by something outside their vehicle, 11.4 per cent by adjusting a radio or CD player, 10.9 per cent by other occupants in the car, 2.8 per cent by adjusting vehicle or climate controls, 1.7 per cent by eating or drinking, 1.5 per cent by cell-phone use, and 0.9 per cent by smoking.

How Canadians feel about distracted driving

According to a POLLARA poll, we seem to understand that distractions do not bode well for good driving, but we seem unable to see how this applies to ourselves. In fact, 89 per cent of respondents were concerned about driver distractions, but 60 per cent said they would not stop using their cell phones even knowing they are four times more likely to be involved in an accident.

The benefits of avoiding distractions while driving

So the message seems clear. If you are doing anything else behind the wheel other than driving, you should abandon it and bring your attention back to driving. Obviously safety is paramount, but there are also financial benefits for not driving distracted. By focusing on your driving and keeping your record clean, you have a better chance of keeping your insurance premium from rising - which will likely happen if you are in an at-fault accident.

To illustrate, auto insurance quotes from competing insurance companies were obtained online in May, 2010 from Using a 35-year old driver of a 2008 Toyota Corolla in Calgary, Toronto, Fredericton, and Halifax, the best priced auto insurance quote was recorded for each location for this driver with no tickets or accidents, and then again for the same driver with one accident in June, 2009.

City Clean driving record 1 accident where you rear-ended someone
Calgary $859 $1217
Toronto $1374 $2586
Fredericton $756 $1246
Halifax $695 $1211

Lowest quote shown. Assumes accident forgiveness is not available or applicable.

Why don't you see for yourself the impact of an at-fault accident on your auto insurance premiums? Visit to compare online auto insurance quotes from competing insurers. While completing your quote, enter that you have an at-fault accident to see how much your premium might be - pick a likely scenario like we did, like "you rear-ended another vehicle" and finish the quote (it's easy, and will only take you a few minutes.) Then, modify your details to represent your true driving history. You'll see how much, by not driving distracted, you will save!

You'll also likely discover that you could be saving money on your own auto insurance premiums. After all, once you enter in your real driving history you'll see real quotes from top Canadian insurers. It takes only a few minutes to compare online auto insurance quotes.

Looking for more articles on cars, driving safety and your insurance?

Back to top