What is distracted driving? This is a question all drivers should be asking.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to put our handheld devices down, whether you’re sitting at your desk or in the driver’s seat. No matter how long you’ve been behind the wheel, a lifetime of experience won’t save you from the potentially fatal consequences of using your device while driving – or the problems that arise when your employees are distracted behind the wheel.
Distracted driving doesn’t just involve your phone. The RCMP define a distracted driver as “…not being fully focused on the road.” This can include talking/texting, programming your GPS, adjusting the radio, personal grooming, and talking with other passengers.
Distracted driving by the numbers
The statistics that surround distracted driving are surprising – specifically the number of distracted drivers on the road and the likelihood they could be involved in an accident because of it.
- Mobile phone use while driving leads to about 1.6 million collisions annually.
- 47 per cent of Canadians admit to typing a message or sending a voice-memo while driving.
- Your likelihood of getting in an accident increases 3.6 times when you use an electronic device.
- In some parts of Canada, distracted driving fatalities surpass impaired driving fatalities.
Distracted driving is on the rise, and it’s likely no coincidence that the number of traffic fatalities has been increasing as well. The National Safety Council estimates that 46,020 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 – up 9% from 2020.
These statistics don’t account for the massive amount of injuries, write-offs, and traffic tickets that result from distracted driving. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the dangers of distracted driving, and the ways to help manage your risk and protect your business.
Keeping your eyes on the road
Experts agree that distracted driving is a growing concern, and handheld devices are the major culprits. Texting is likely the worst activity of all: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, taking five seconds to send or receive a text while driving at highway speed is equal to traveling the length of a football field while blindfolded.
Distracted driving penalties by province
As of 2022, all Canadian provinces have distracted driving penalties in place. Depending on the province, fines can vary from $200 to $5,000 and come with anywhere from 3 to 5 demerit points. You could even face a 3-day license suspension! Although fine amounts, demerit points, and license suspension lengths vary by location you can educate yourself on what to expect if pulled over for distracted driving.
What can I do while behind the wheel?
Financial penalty and demerit points are important consequences to consider, but you should also know what types of devices and activities are covered under your provincial distracted driving law. Check to see whether some devices are permitted, or if all handheld and hands-free devices are prohibited for drivers in your province.
Of course, electronic devices aren’t the only thing that can distract us while behind the wheel. Things like eating, adjusting the radio, reading, or typing your destination into a GPS system are also dangerous – and can also carry penalties for the driver.
Tips to stay safe on the road
Although handheld devices are generally off-limits, there are some other ways to stay connected while you’re driving. In some cases, drivers can use the following modes and systems:
- Cell phones on hands-free mode (Bluetooth).
- GPS secured to the dashboard.
- Display screen used for collision avoidance systems.
- Display screens that indicate the status of the vehicle systems.
However, even hands-free devices aren’t safe to use all the time. In fact, there are several situations when using cell phones or devices of any sort is inappropriate, including:
- Hazardous road conditions – due to weather, roadwork, or other obstacles.
- Emotional or stressful conversations – this distress can add a layer of distraction
- Text messaging – never text in the driver’s seat, even when your vehicle is stopped.
- Operating construction or contractor’s equipment – this can demand your full attention when the machine is in gear.
If you manage a fleet, it’s a good idea to include a policy on the use of wireless communication devices in your Fleet Safety Program. Consider using clear and straightforward guidelines for your employees to follow when they’re on the road, including:
- Only use a handheld device when lawfully parked.
- Never answer a ringing phone while driving (unless it’s via Bluetooth).
- Always comply with driving and road laws.
- Keep the conversation as short as possible.
In cases when a call is absolutely necessary, it should be made in a hands-free mode – your employees can use the voice-dialing feature on their phone.
Protect and prepare with the right coverage
It can be difficult to manage distracted driving risks as people become more and more reliant on their devices, but it makes sense to put energy into prevention. This can help avoid expensive – or tragic – consequences.
With helpful extras like direct access to risk management expertise and transportation training, Northbridge offers transportation insurance that not only protects your fleet, but helps you stay one step ahead of the challenges you may meet on and off the road. Speak with one of our reputed brokers about your ideal transportation insurance policy.