Vol. 76, No. 2Just the facts

Distracted driving

With the rise of cellphone use around the world, the number of motor vehicle collisions caused by distracted driving has also increased. Texting something as simple as "LOL!" can result in the loss of life. As the world reacts to the latest threat on the highways, the following statistics show just how risky distracted driving really is.

  • Distracted driving is any task that takes the driver away from the primary task of driving, such as texting, talking on a cell phone, eating, tuning the radio, or putting on makeup or shaving.
  • The three main types of distraction while driving are visual, taking your eyes off the road, manual, which is taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive, taking your mind off driving.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) states that by using a cellphone while driving, drivers are about four times more likely to be involved in a car crash than a driver who is not using a phone, and this appears to be the same for hands-free devices because it's the cognitive distraction as opposed to the physical one of holding the phone.
  • Evidence shows that the distraction caused by using a cellphone impairs driving in a number of ways including longer reaction times, impaired ability to keep in the correct lane, and shorter distance between cars.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for at least five seconds. If the vehicle is travelling at 55 miles per hour [89 kilometres per hour], this equals driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.
  • When driving, a person is 23 times more likely to crash if they are texting, 2.8 times more at risk of crashing if they are dialing a phone, 1.3 times more at risk of crashing if they are talking or listening to someone, and 1.4 times more at risk of crashing just by reaching for a phone.
  • According to Transport Canada's National Collision Database for the years 2006-2011, despite education campaigns and police blitzes, the number of fatal collisions where distraction was cited as the cause has risen by 17 per cent in Canada over the most recent five year period, from 302 deaths to 352.
  • Each year in North America, driver distraction is a factor in about four million motor vehicle collisions.
  • Passengers can be distractions as well. According to CAA, children are four times more distracting than adults as passengers and infants are eight times more distracting than adults as passengers.
  • In Nova Scotia, the RCMP reported that in the summer of 2013, distracted driving surpassed impaired driving as the number one cause of deaths. Saskatchewan's public insurance bureau noted the same.
  • The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that distracted drivers experience the same level of impairment as someone with a blood-alcohol content of .08, which is the level at which it's illegal to operate a vehicle.
  • The issue of cellphone use in cars has prompted some of the biggest stars to take a stand against it, like Oprah Winfrey with her "No Phone Zone Pledge." More than 420,000 people have taken the pledge to not talk or text while driving.
  • Seventy countries now have laws that make it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving.
  • In the United States, it was reported that 11 per cent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of distracted drivers.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that at any given moment of the day in the United States, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or another electronic device while driving.
  • The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has found that 25 per cent of teenage drivers respond to at least one text message every time they drive and 20 per cent of teens admit that they have multi-message conversations via text while driving compared with 10 per cent of parents.

–Compiled by Deidre Seiden

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