B.C. drivers seem to be getting the message that using a cellphone or other hand-held devices while driving is extremely dangerous – but they’re not all putting down the device.
A new Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ICBC found that nearly nine in ten respondents (87 percent) believe texting or emailing while driving is one of the most risky things we can do behind the wheel – 76 percent believe it’s just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
But, they’re still doing it. Roughly 16 percent of respondents said they’ve talked on a hand-held cellphone while driving over the last 12 months and nine percent admit to texting or emailing while driving. Others are spotted engaging in this behaviour, with more than 50 percent of respondents reporting that they see others on the phone “several times a day”. Twenty percent say they see distracted drivers “about once a day.”
Excuses run rampant. Among those who admitted to using mobile devices while driving, the main excuses were, “I use the speaker function” (42 per cent), “It was a very short call” (42 per cent), “I pulled over after answering the call” (37 per cent) and “I was stopped at a red light,” (29 per cent). Other reasons given included, “Not having a hands-free device” or, “It’s simply a force of habit”.
“With school back in and fall weather approaching, September can be a dangerous month on B.C.’s roads,” says Chief Constable Jamie Graham, Traffic Committee Chair of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP). “It’s illegal and stupid to use your cellphone or text while driving. You are putting people at risk. Statistics show that about a quarter of all deaths in fatal crashes in our province are driver-distraction-related so police are going to continue to recommend tougher sanctions for people who think they’re above the law.”
On February 1, 2010, B.C.’s distracted driving law came into effect, banning the use of hand-held phones while driving. One year in, B.C. drivers said the law was working.