When most people think about impaired driving, they picture someone who's impaired by drugs or alcohol. However, there's another type of driving impairment threatening lives every day: distraction.
Distracted driving is a form of impaired driving because the driver's judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the task.
"Distracted driving – like any type of impaired driving – is a selfish choice," says Cst. Chad Morrison of Nova Scotia RCMP. "By driving distracted, you're valuing whatever you're doing – texting, adjusting the radio, eating, whatever – over your safety and the safety of others."
In 2016, distracted driving contributed to over 140 serious and fatal motor vehicle collisions in Nova Scotia and RCMP issued 1,703 tickets for using a cell phone while driving in the province. The fine for using a mobile phone or texting while operating vehicle is $237.50 in Nova Scotia with fines for second and third offences at $352.50 and $582.50, respectively.
Although distracted driving may seem innocent compared to driving impaired, it is a serious threat to safety. It only takes a moment to cause a collision and four out of five distracted driving collisions involve a motorist who only looked away for three seconds.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into serious crashes so the RCMP encourages motorists to limit temptation by placing cellphones out of reach before taking off. RCMP also advises residents to secure loose objects in the trunk or behind a seat and avoid eating, drinking, grooming or adjusting the radio while driving. It's also smart to ask passengers to keep the volume down and to keep music at a level where you can hear sirens and screeching brakes.
If you notice someone texting or talking on the phone while driving, you can report it to the RCMP non-emergency line at 1-800-803-7267. Motorists are also encouraged to note as many details about the driver and the vehicle as possible, including the make/model of vehicle, colour, licence plate number, and the direction of travel.
Take the pledge to leave the phone alone while driving at https://leavethephonealone.ca/pledge-form.php and remember: if you wouldn't drive impaired, don't drive distracted.