Driving while not paying attention to the road is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. During driver training, we are told to always have our eyes on the road, look to strategic spots and blind spots for signs of trouble, watch what the other drivers on the road are doing and always being aware of our surroundings. Even a task as simple as pulling out of the driveway requires a driver's full attention: what's behind you, in front and beside you (garbage cans, toys, bicycles, people etc).
When you are in the driver's seat of a vehicle, there is no room to do anything other than drive responsibly. In fact, it is such a vital part of safe driving that most people think that texting while driving should be a criminal offence. A simple ticket and fine, are no longer thought of as sufficient.
Below is a comprehensive guide to different resources that will help you learn about distracted driving, laws and fines, and the effects of being distracted on the road.
Table of Contents
- Distracted Driving - A Guide
- Distracted Parents
- Teaching Your Children
- Commercial Drivers, Public Service and Emergency Workers
- Factory, Construction and Trade Workers
Distracted driving is becoming more commonplace on the road, and accidents caused by distracted driving kill and injure more people than drunk drivers. Each year, distracted drivers cause about 16 per cent of fatalities and 20 per cent of injuries in collisions (2009 statistic). Distractions can increase the odds of getting into a crash or a near crash. Outside distractions such as watching an accident scene or looking at billboards and street signs can also contribute to these risks.
Use common sense. If you are sleepy, hungry, have to make a call, or need to help a passenger, pull off to the side of the road - to a safe spot. And, if there is an accident scene or other outside distraction, do not get caught up looking at it.
Click on the links below to learn more:
- What is distracted driving?
- Top Four Admitted Distractions (infographic)
- Canada Speaks on Distracted Driving (infographic)
- Distracted Driving Bad Habits
- List of Top Distractions
- Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
- Costs of Distracted Driving
- Distracted Driving and Insurance
- Avoiding Driving Distractions
Each province and territory has different penalties, fines and demerit points for distracted driving. To learn about different legislations in Canada's provinces and territories, click on one of these links:
- Demerits and Fines across Canada
- Distracted Driving Laws in Canada (CBC article)
- Ontario Legislation
- Alberta Legislation
- British Columbia Legislation
- Quebec Legislation
- New Brunswick Legislation
- Prince Edward Island Legislation
- Nova Scotia Legislation
- Newfoundland Legislation
- Yukon Legislation
- North West Territories Legislation
In some areas, drivers have some exceptions to the distracted driving rules concerning cell phones. There is often legislation that allows for communication devices to be used in hands-free mode. This means that the mobile devices are typically used with a headset, Bluetooth or earpiece, or used on speakerphone, and when used as such-properly-may be exempted from the "no cell phone use" rule depending on the local legislation. Depending on the area, exemptions may include:
- GPS devices used in hands-free mode.
- Collision avoidance systems
- Display screens providing information on road and weather conditions, or those providing information on the immediate environment of the vehicle -e.g. screens allowing drivers to see behind the vehicle while backing up
- Hands-free hand-mike and portable-radio (walkie-talkie) used by hands-free application such as a lapel button or any other hands-free application.
If you need to call 911, you may also be exempted; just make sure that, if possible, you drive to a safe spot to make the call and do not disrupt traffic. Learn more about hands-free legislation.
Teens are especially vulnerable to the effects of distracted driving. And, although texting and talking on their cell phones are two of the biggest distractions for teens, the presence of friends in the car can also be a distraction.
A 2005 Statistics Canada report says that although Canadian teenagers 15 to 19 years old represent less than 7 per cent of the total population, they represent 19 per cent of all passenger fatalities and 19 per cent of all serious injuries to passengers in Canada. When there is an accident, the situation affects not only you but everyone in your life-moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. So, to be safe:
- Put the phone away
- Let the front seat passenger change CD's, radio stations or select music on your MP3 player
- Comments and joking around should be kept to a minimum, and should never distract the driver.
- NEVER allow passengers to unbuckle and climb around inside a moving car.
- If you are tired, pull over at a safe spot to rest.
For more tips:
- Distracted Driving and cell phones
- Cell phones and Driving
- Ontario Provincial Police - Talking to young adults about driving habits (video)
- Teens and Distracted Driving
- Distracted To Death
- Distracted Driving Game (University of Minnesota)
Parents are the first people that children look to for example. So, it is up to parents to live by example - whether it is by exhibiting ethical behaviour, love or respect. This "learn by example" behaviour should also be shown when parents are driving. Be responsible, show respect for others on the road, and do not be distracted while driving. Live by the actions that you would like your children to exhibit.
Next to teenagers, parents, particularly those of infants or small children, are some of the most distracted drivers on the road. According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), small children are four times more distracting than adult passengers, and infants are 8 times more distracting.
There is probably nothing more unsettling than listening to an uncomfortable child in the back seat. A parent's first instinct is to take action immediately and comfort the little one. Find a safe spot, preferably not on the shoulder of the road, and take care of the young one's needs. It's better to let the baby cry for a bit and avoid the possibility of an accident.
To learn more:
- Driving Simulator
- A mum's look at parents and distracted Driving
- Parent Drivers - A report by cnet.com
- Avoiding Driving Distractions
- Statistics on Driving with children
- How some toddler toys teach bad driving habits
To keep your children happy and occupied on the road, there are a number of resources that provide activities for them. To get you started:
It is important to start teaching your children about safe driving at an early age. They do not have to be in driver training to begin understanding road safety.
Toddlers and young children will bicker in the confined space of a vehicle, and the quarrelling is hard to ignore. If you are unable to stop the arguing or control interruptions in the backseat, it may serve you well to give children their own diversions. Keep them busy. You may not be able to stop the arguing, but you can lessen the frequency:
- Teach them car games
- Give them their favourite books
- Stick in a DVD for them to watch. If your vehicle is not set up with a built-in system, buy an inexpensive system - preferably one for each child, equipped with headphones.
- Provide hand-held devices such as game units, tablets. laptops or smart phones
- Help them plan what they want to do while travelling
There are some websites that are child-friendly, where children can learn and participate in games and activities that teach them about distracted driving at a level they can understand. For more information:
Even before they drive, your children need to understand the rules while on the road. Be an example, and help them while they are learning. Trying to teach a teenager can be difficult and more than likely, there will be conflict, but with some of these resources, you can be a better source of information and guidance for your child.
To help your young driver learn to be a safe and responsible driver, take a look at the links below: