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Distracted Driving: Socially Acceptable or Completely Preventable?

distracted-driving-on-the-rise

The number of cell phone users in Canada has grown from 100,000 to over 28.5 million between 1987 and 2015. Because our devices have become so ingrained in our lives, they come with us everywhere and we are always available, even while driving. Due to the amount of drivers who use their hand-held device while in the car, it is now against the law to due so.

In Ontario, it is illegal to talk, text, type or email on hand-held devices (cell phones, communications, and MP3 players/entertainment) while driving.

Research has stated “the crash risk doubles for any driver who takes their eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds.”  Texting, scrolling through a playlist, or sending an email realistically takes most mobile users more than 2 seconds. What happens to our crash risk if we are looking away from the road for 10 seconds or more?

Driver distraction is responsible for up to 80% of motor vehicle collisions, and news reports of distracted driving accidents and deaths are increasingly common. CAA states that texting and driving is now Canadians biggest road and safety concern. 90% of Canadians believe texting and driving is socially unacceptable and pull over, or pull off the road altogether to text or make calls. However, 22% admit to checking or sending text messages while driving.

Why do some continue to drive distracted if they know texting and driving is dangerous to themselves and others? Perhaps there is not enough time in the day and it is an attempt at multi-tasking. Or maybe it’s an emergency, work, or family matter that just can’t wait.

Whatever the rationale, the Ontario Provincial Police reported that distracted driving deaths are on course to surpass impaired driving as the leading cause of deaths on the road for the seventh consecutive year.  The Government of Ontario recently raised fines again to crack down harder on drivers who continue to ignore the law and endanger others.

As of September 1, 2015,  if you are convicted of distracted driving, a fully licensed driver or a hybrid driver (holder of a full-class licence and a novice licence such as Class G and M1) will receive:

  • a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court
  • fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
  • three demerit points applied to your driver’s record

DEVICES THAT CAN AND CAN’T BE USED

distracted-driving-MTO-table

*Excerpted from Ministry of Transportation Ontario

You can still use hand-held devices while driving in a few cases:

  • in a vehicle pulled off the roadway or lawfully parked
  • to make a 911 call
  • transmitting or receiving voice communication on a two-way, CB or mobile radio (hand-mikes and portable radios like walkie-talkies require a lapel button or other hands-free accessory)

Which devices are considered “hands-free”?

Any device that you do not touch, hold or manipulate while driving, other than to activate or deactivate it. For example, actions such as dialling or scrolling through contacts, or manually programming a GPS device are not allowed.

What happens if I am injured in a car accident with a distracted driver?

If a driver endangers others because of any distraction, including both hand-held and hands-free devices, they can be charged with careless driving. If convicted, they will automatically receive:

  • six demerit points
  • fines up to $2,000 and/or
  • a jail term of six months
  • up to two-year licence suspension
  • They can even be charged with dangerous driving (a criminal offence), with jail terms of up to five years.

If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, you may be entitled to claim car accident injury compensation to cover damages and/or injury costs incurred as a result of the accident. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the at-fault drivers’ insurance to cover these costs.

In some cases, an accident may involve an uninsured, distracted driver. There are compensation programs available to help you cover any costs incurred. Read more about car accidents with an uninsured driver.

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