Safety First and Last: Distracted driving is impaired driving

Jeff Thorne
March 22, 2017
By Jeff Thorne
Would you get into a vehicle with an impaired driver? I mean seriously impaired, fumbling for the keys, slurred speech, can barely walk kind of impaired. Would you place your children in that car? Of course you wouldn’t. Would that decision change if the driver only had a few drinks? Hopefully not, because we all know that driving under the influence is against the law and we all know there are penalties – in some cases severe, life-altering penalties.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news folks, but distracted driving is just as bad. I’m sure we all know distracted driving is against the law, yet despite this awareness distracted driving is slowly replacing driving under the influence as the number one cause of fatalities in Canada.

If you drive while distracted, which is essentially performing any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving (texting, using a smartphone or other handheld device, eating, reading a map), then you should know the following facts:
  • You are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text while driving, and four times more likely if you talk on a cellphone (handheld or hands free) while driving
  • Checking a text for five seconds at 90 kilometres per hour means you’ve travelled the length of a football field blindfolded
  • Drivers using phones look at but fail to see up to 50 per cent of the information in the driving environment
  • Distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes in 2015
  • The economic and social consequence of road crashes in Canada is estimated to be $25 billion per year, including direct and indirect costs and pain and suffering
Distracted driving impairs cognitive judgement, leads to poor decision-making that can result in injuring or killing yourself, passengers, and/or other people.

When it comes to legislation, the following provinces have set penalties for distracted driving:
  • B.C.: $543 first offence, $888 second offence, four demerit points
  • Alberta: $287, three demerit points
  • Saskatchewan: $280, four demerit points
  • Manitoba: $200, five demerit points
  • Ontario: $490 - $1000, three demerit points
  • Quebec: $80 - $100, four demerit points
  • New Brunswick: $172.50, three demerit points
  • Nova Scotia: $233.95 first offence; $348.95 second offence; $578,95 subsequent offences, four demerit points
  • Newfoundland: $100 - $400, four demerit points
  • Yukon: $250, three demerit points
  • N.W.T.: $322 - $644, three demerit points
Penalties alone may not be enough of a deterrent. For example, in Ontario, distracted driving has led the fatal crash category three years in a row. In 2015 there were 69 distracted driving fatalities, compared to 61 speed fatalities, 51 seat belt, and 45 impaired fatalities.

In Alberta, between April of 2014 and March of 2015, there were 27,417 distracted driving convictions. Using a hand held device accounted for 87.8 per cent of all convictions (24,075).

There are simple things that we can all do to stay safe on the road. Plan your route and plug in your destination prior to leaving. Make sure your GPS is set to call out the directions, and make sure the volume is high enough prior to departing.  

Set your playlist or choose the tunes you want to cruise to prior to departing, and make sure that the volume isn’t so loud that you can’t hear the siren of emergency vehicles.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but complete your personal grooming at home. Applying makeup, eyeliner, lipstick, shaving, brushing teeth, (all of which I have witnessed) can be done at home.

Avoid eating and drinking while in transit. If you need to take a drink, wait until a red light.

And finally, put your phone away, keep it out of sight and out of reach. I know it’s tempting, I know you’re popular, but responding to a text the second it comes in, isn’t that important. Set an example, especially if you have kids in the back seat, it can wait.


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