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Distracted driving is defined as the act of driving a vehicle while you’re engaging in other activities that reduce or take your full attention away from the road. These actions can include trying to deal with children, texting, talking on a cellphone or to a passenger, watching videos, personal grooming or reading. Regardless of the distraction, the safety of the driver, passengers and those in other cars are compromised. Distracted driving is separated by function and falls into three specific groups.

  • Visual Distraction: This distraction occurs when a driver takes one’s eye off the road.
  • Manual Distraction: This distraction occurs when a driver takes one’s hand off the steering wheel.
  • Cognitive Distraction: This distraction occurs when the driver is not directly focused on driving due to daydreaming and/or the mind wanders.

Today’s distractions have been greatly influenced by technology, especially text messaging, operating an iPad or talking on the phone. Texting, talking and iPad use requires a combination of visual, manual, and cognitive attention, making these acts particularly dangerous. The Economist calls distracted driving the new drunk driving.

Just Routine:

For many drivers, the operation of a vehicle is a simple everyday task that is both familiar, comfortable and requires minimal attention. However, that’s not the case since driving is a complex coordination that demands your full attention each time you get behind the wheel to assure safety and responsiveness.

The dangers of inattentiveness by drivers are real with statistics showing that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to end up in a collision than those who stay focused on the road. The average “eyes off the road” aspect significantly increases the risk of a collision. While traveling at highway speeds, sending a simple text message takes the drivers eyes off the road the length of a football field. Motorists must keep in mind that they are:

  • Operating a heavy piece of machinery at high speed
  • Navigating across changing terrain
  • Calculating speeds and distances
  • Responding to other drivers, signs signals and obstacles around you
Texting and Driving

Ontario’s Law on Cell Phone Use and Driving:

Ontario’s ban on hand-held devices while driving took effect on October 26, 2009. The website’s legislation states: mto.gov.on.ca

The law makes it illegal for drivers to talk text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. The law also prohibits drivers from viewing display screens unrelated to the driving task, such as laptops or DVD players, while driving. The use of hands-free devices is still permitted, and drivers may use hand-held devices to call 9-1-1.

“Hands-free” use means that apart from activating or deactivating the device, it is not held during use and the driver is not physically interacting with or manipulating it.  Actions such as dialing or scrolling through contacts, or manually programming a GPS device, for example, are not allowed. Drivers caught using a hand-held device will face a set fine of $225 plus a victim surcharge and court fees for a total of $280. Drivers who challenge the ticket in court face fines of up to $500.

New statistics released for 2013 show that distracted driving is the number one killer on the roads. In Ontario, more people died in distracted driving-related crashes than any other type of crash. In 2013:

  • 78 people died from distracted related crashes
  • 57 people died in impaired related crashes
  • 44 people died in speed-related crashes

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that one of every ten fatal crashes involves distracted driving and results in more than 3,000 deaths per year. It is the leading cause of death for teens who are especially vulnerable to distractions. They are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash because they are far more prone to embracing the technology of texting while driving. Because of their youth, inexperience and feelings of invincibility, teens who use electronic devices while driving get into more crashes in the first six months of getting their license. It’s important that parents take a non-negotiable stance about electronic devices and distracted driving.

With being a parent, it means leading by example.  When driving, make sure you stay off your phone at all times, even when you aren’t around your children.  You might think it’s ok to check your messages at a red light, but just remember, you’re no only jeopardizing your life, but the lives of everyone around you as well.  If you absolutely must check your messages, drive into the nearest parking lot, put your car in park, and turn off the engine.  Then, it’s safe to text.  Pulling off to the side of the road will still get you a ticket when texting in a car.  You must be in a parking spot or a driveway, with the car off to avoid getting a ticket and avoid putting lives at risk.

New Crack Down on Driving and Texting:

According to the Canadian Press release published October 21, 2014, new legislation presented at Queen’s Park is being introduced to crack down on distracted drivers. Ctvnews If the legislation is passed, it would increase the maximum fines from the current range of $60 to $500 to $300 to $1,000 and impose three demerit points upon conviction. These proposed changes will be the toughest in Canada.

The change can affect how the enforcement of the law is managed by police who decide what a driver is charged with according to a statement by the MTO. As an example, you can still be potentially charged if police find that you’re driving unsafely or get in a crash even when you’re not using a display screen or a hands-free device.

“In more serious cases, police have the option of laying a Careless Driving charge under the Highway Traffic Act, which carries hefty penalties such as six demerit points, fines of up to $2,000 and possible jail time,” the MTO says. “Police may also lay a charge of Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada, where drivers could face jail terms of up to five years.”

Common Sense When Driving:

All drivers need to use common sense when they get behind the wheel regarding the known dangers of distracted driving. The simplest rule to follow for your safety and those of others is that: if it takes your attention away from watching the road, do not do it while you’re driving.

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