Distracted Driving

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What is the cost of new distracted driving law in Ontario? How can we break the habit of phone dependency while driving? The New Year has arrived along with raised fines and more awareness of new distracted driving penalties.

New Distracted Driving Law in Ontario

On JanDistracted driving search trend on Googleuary 1, 2019, Police in Ontario got a strict new road safety law to use in combating distracted driving. The new penalties are the harshest in Canada. A first offense can get fines up to $1,000, a three-day suspension of a license, and three demerit points. Penalties increase significantly with second and third convictions. That caught people’s attention. Many looked it up on Google (see Google Trends chart).

We hope they were not Googling while driving at the time.

Widely reported in the media, the new Ontario law on distracted driving and consequences of conviction seems to have made an impact. The more people know, the less chance of a distracted driving tragedy.

We think this is good news, but it will take willpower to break bad habits.

Mobile phone dependency

Habits are hard to break (ask anyone trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolution). Our phones are never out of reach, including while driving. The urge to look at a text, answer a call, or look up an address is hard to resist. The phone dependency phenomenon has shown up in data. This been a growing concern for road safety advocates like us. Some powerful investors have pressured phone makers to help people to lessen their phone use and save us from our own bad habits.

A plurality, 45 per cent, feel that the smartphone makers are not doing enough to fight smartphone addiction, said Lorne Bozinoff, president, Forum Research – Financial Post, Feb 23, 2018.

The 2018 study of Canadians found 43 percent spend between one and two hours a day on their cellphones. We think the number is likely higher, since people often underestimate how much time they spend.

Forum Research also asked Canadians how quickly they respond to messages on their cellphones. Nearly half, 48 per cent, said they replied within 10 minutes. About 71 per cent said they replied in less than 30 minutes. Residents in the Atlantic provinces had the highest rate of those responding in under 30 minutes (76 per cent), followed by Alberta and British Columbia (75 per cent).

Don’t Snap & Drive Messaging

Distracted driving includes snapchatting, texting or dialing while drivingle drivingAsk anyone under 35 who uses Snapchat the fastest way to share a moment’. The social media app gives you points when you open and reply. Comparing scores with friends drives you to open the app to collect more points. More concerning is the real-time speed feature. It encourages some users to up the ante and drive at excessive speeds. Endorphins are triggered when we get pulled into the constant feedback loops whether its chasing points, Facebook ‘likes’ or re-Tweets.

The impact of chasing social media rewards can be deadly. Last year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fifth annual awareness campaign targeted motorists aged 18 to 34. They are the demographic most likely to die in distracted driving crashes, and the core user group of social media.

People need to understand the potential price of distracted driving. The cost of a ticket is nothing, compared to the irrevocable cost of taking someone’s life. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator said this in 2016 when launching a “Don’t Snap and Drive” campaign.

Ontario distracted driving statistics

Police in Ontario also know distracted driving is increasingly resulting in crashes, injury and fatalities on our roads. The numbers are not encouraging: the number of collisions is growing, and deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.

Ontario data on collisions from 2013 show:

  • one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour
  • a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road

Back in August, the OPP launched a Back to School distracted driving campaign. They asked drivers to put away their phones.

Not ok: Clearing up confusion over hands-free voice activation

Voice commands to a mobile phone reduce distracted drivingPeople are not always clear on what type of technology use counts as distracted driving. Dialing or scrolling through contacts is not ok. You can ONLY activate or deactivate (turn on or off) a hands-free function, and ONLY if the device is mounted or secured.

Hands-free and voice-activated devices can be used, so long as you have it connected to an earpiece, headset or via Bluetooth. You must use voice-activated dialing or commands to your media player, like “Hey Google, play my driving playlist.”  Visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for a guide to using hands-free devices.

Using your phone to talk, text, check maps or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving – and they put you and others at risk. Government of Ontario

Phones are only part of the problem

Trimtag Be Alert woven patch trioOther driving distractions are equally as dangerous. For some, vehicles have become second homes and restaurants. Saving time sends us to a drive through to pick up food. We eat and drink while at the wheel. Some use the rear view mirror to check our hair instead of checking traffic.

A combination of awareness, deterrence and enforcement of the new Ontario distracted driving law give Police in Ontario the strongest prevention tools in Canada. Drivers, this is a wake up call to stop driving behavior which can cost you $1,000, or much, much more.

We call anything that will improve road safety a ‘win’ for everyone. This is what the Trimtag “Be Alert” road safety program is all about. We support all messages aimed promoting road safety for children around school zones.