Distracted Driving

While numbers may vary, the evidence to date clearly shows that driver distraction is an important issue for road safety. CAA believes that the rise of habits that constitute distracted driving, and particularly texting while driving, over the past decade is a serious cause for concern.

The Issue with Distraction…

Even a moment’s distraction can be dangerous for you as a driver and to everyone around you on the road. Based on a recent CAA time trial, replying to a text message takes an average of 33.6 seconds. If you’re driving on a residential road, this means you may have missed 85 parked cars, 36 houses or 5 intersections. Maybe you didn’t see the vehicle that was backing down a driveway or maybe it was the young cyclists who may have suddenly turned into your path. Just imagine what else you may have missed, and the consequences that could follow.

Distracted driving is one of the great unreported traffic safety problems facing Canadians today. Evidence available on distracted driving paints an incomplete picture of the risks posed by distractions. Only a handful of studies have been conducted on the subject. Earlier studies had suggested driver distractions were estimated to cause between 20 and 40 per cent of all collisions. The most recent data available today concludes that 8 out of every 10 collisions are caused by driver distractions.

While numbers may vary, the evidence to date clearly shows that driver distraction is an important issue for road safety.

CAA believes that the rise of habits that constitute distracted driving, and particularly texting while driving, over the past decade is a serious cause for concern.

All Canadian provinces now have some form of distracted driving law in place. Yet we realize that legislation alone will not solve this issue. Enforcement along with public awareness and education are necessary.

In particular, CAA is concerned with the rise in texting while driving. We as a society need to change how we view the habit and make the practice of texting while driving socially unacceptable. We at CAA view it as our role to provide Canadians with up to date and accurate information on the issue and to help raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving. On this page, you will find information on our various distracted driving campaigns and initiatives.

In fall 2011, CAA issued a call to action to youth from coast to coast, asking them to show their friends and family why it’s dangerous to text while driving. Over 60 entries and 20,000 votes later, our judges made their pick:

In March of 2012, CAA was pleased to bring together international and domestic experts to discuss the latest thinking on the issue of distracted driving and examine possible ways in which we can help shift society’s view of the habit of texting while driving at the Driven to Distraction Conference in Toronto, ON.

Tips for eliminating Driver Distractions

Motorists

As a motorist, there are elements within the vehicle that you can control to minimize the distractions to which you will be most susceptible while driving. Though some of these distractions may not seem threatening, remember that in just two seconds of distraction, you will travel almost 30 metres at a speed of 50 km/hr. A lot can happen in that distance.

Before getting behind the wheel, use these tips to reduce preventable distractions:

Eat/drink before you get in the car. It may not seem like much, but taking time to eat breakfast or a snack before you leave means you can concentrate on the road — and keep both hands on the wheel, where they should be.

Turn off your cell phone or put it away.

Pre-program radio stations, fill your CD deck, and/or choose your music playlist before you start the car.

Prepare your children for the trip. When you buckle them in, make sure kids have easy access to any toys or snacks you want them to have on each leg of the trip. In-vehicle DVD players can be very distracting for the driver, but if you feel you must have one, have it installed out of sight of the driver and in a way that precludes operation by the driver while driving. If, during the drive, your young passengers begin to fight, cry, or ask for something, pull over at a safe time and place and tend to their needs while stopped.

Finish your personal grooming before you leave home. Applying lipstick or tying your tie while driving is not only a two-handed distraction — it’s also a good way to injure yourself!

Keep the conversation light and to a minimum. If you’re driving with a passenger, let them know their safety is your first priority, not your conversation.

Secure loose items on your dash, rear view mirror or vacant seats. If you can’t secure these items, put them in your trunk, or leave them at home. Sharp turns or abrupt stops will cause these things to fly — creating a (noisy) distraction.

Review maps and directions before leaving. If possible, ask a passenger to be your navigator so you can concentrate on the road while they read the map and watch for signs and landmarks.

Technology Developers

Automotive technology developers and manufacturers have a responsibility to create a safe and enjoyable motoring environment for motorists and everyone else on the roads. But safety features go beyond the air bag and ABS brakes — safety features can also be considered the manner in which a dashboard is organized, or the size of a radio dial. By designing vehicles with fewer built-in distractions, automotive manufacturers can help motorists enjoy a safer vehicle.

Technology that distracts motorists has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, including original equipment and aftermarket additions or modifications to vehicles. At the same time, some technology can improve safety, and may reduce the risks of driver distractions by creating an easier driver interface. The challenge is to prevent technology from increasing crash risks, while preserving its benefits.

Here are some things that automotive manufacturers can do to promote safety inside the vehicle:

Implement easy to read systems. Implement systems that inform motorists about their vehicle more effectively through displays or voice recognition software. Visual displays should only require the briefest of glances, so as not to take the driver’s eyes or mind off the road any longer than necessary.

Reduce the cognitive time required to program features. Develop large, easy to identify entertainment features (such as radio buttons) at optimal eye levels that do not require the motorist to spend valuable cognitive time changing the radio station, CD, etc., when they should be focusing on the road.

Develop consistent usability standards for original, aftermarket and portable devices that do not limit production and create continuity in use for motorists.

Clearly identify the potential distracting effects of technology. Educate motorists where possible, to use technology safely.

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