The word is starting to get out that distracted driving kills. Distracted driving is estimated to play a role in four million accidents in North America each year, and its death toll is quickly surpassing that of impaired driving and speeding. Recently at the Honda Indy, where Kanetix campaigned to raise awareness about distracted driving, many drivers were surprised to discover the term refers to more than just using your phone while operating a vehicle.
Although texting or making phone calls on a handheld device while driving is a main contributor to driver distraction-and is illegal in all provinces-it is hardly the only culprit.
From French fries to four-year-olds, we have identified five key driving distractions that can impede driver safety when on the road. By becoming aware of these distractions, drivers can properly prepare for any drive or journey, helping to make the roads safer for them, their passengers, and everyone else.
A recent KANETIX.ca survey revealed that 89 per cent of Canadians feel children can be a distraction in the car. Between crying and fussing, fights between siblings, jittery legs, constant bathroom breaks, and other innocent behaviours, it can be easy for drivers to take their eyes off the road to tend to their children. However, drivers need to remember to stay focused on the task at hand-safe driving-and to pull off the road to a safe location before turning their attention to their children. Even a moment of inattentiveness increases your risk of an accident.
We get it. You're busy. Sometimes you just need to grab a bite on the go. If you're like 39 per cent of Canadians, you admit to eating or drinking behind the wheel. It's easy to turn to fast food, but unwrapping burgers, rummaging for condiments, or dipping French fries into ketchup are sure ways to take your focus off the road. Instead, reach for snacks that are easy to access, and choose drinks that are neither too hot nor too cold. Don't let that fast meal be your last meal.
Canadians love the radio, but flipping through stations is a common and unnervingly natural way to distract yourself from driving. Not only that, but blaring music can distract other drivers on the road, or prevent you from hearing sirens or screeching wheels. Remember to keep your music at a practical level and take advantage of presets and playlists.
Although eating and flipping through radio stations is not presently illegal, personal grooming habits such as putting on makeup and shaving have become part of distracted driving legislation in Alberta. This province is the first, and likely won't be the last, to take legal measures against additional forms of distracted driving. Seven per cent of Canadians admit to applying makeup from behind the wheel. And yes, applying lipstick at a red light still counts. In Alberta, drivers could still get fined $172. Limit the beauty routine to before you depart or after you reach your destination.
Using a hand-held device while driving is illegal in all provinces and territories except Nunavut, which does not have distracted driving legislation in place at this time. Driver penalties range across the country. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, drivers caught operating their phone while driving face fines of up to $400 and four demerit points. Other provinces are taking heed. Earlier this year, Ontario increased fines to $280 and introduced legislation that if passed will impose maximum fines of up to $1,000 and three demerit points.
For more tips, watch this video featuring professional race car drivers as they discuss tips for staying focused and avoiding distractions on the road. Remember, nothing is more important than arriving at your destination safely.
BREAK A BAD HABIT
If you're guilty of one or more of these distracted driving habits, why not make a commitment to stop endangering yourself and others on the road?
As part of our #DistractedtoDeath campaign, KANETIX.ca is challenging drivers to take the pledge against distracted driving. For each pledge, KANETIX.ca will donate $1 towards educating teens about the dangers of distracted driving. The target is to raise $10,000 for Teens Learn To Drive, a non-profit whose mission is to reduce death and injury caused by traffic accidents. A recent study conducted by CAMH found that one third of all licensed Ontario students in Grades 10 to 12 admitted to texting at least once while driving, with forty-six per cent of grade 12 students admitting the same.
By starting with teens, we hope to help drivers learn safe driving habits from an early age.
It's never too late to become a safer driver. Start today by becoming aware of distractions and making a commitment to avoid them when driving.