Distracted Driving Statistics – What to Believe?

I received an interesting fact sheet from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) this week. It looks at distracted driving related fatal collisions in Canada from 2000 to 2015. In some Canadian provinces this type of fatality has surpassed the total caused by alcohol impaired driving. However, that’s not the part of the document that made me pause.

Distracted driving to many means the manual use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. In reality, distractions include being engaged with entertainment or communication devices, engaging with passengers in the vehicle, or eating, smoking or personal grooming while driving, among other examples. Doing anything that takes the driver’s attention from the driving task could be considered as distracting.

This caveat in the preface to the report was what really captured my attention:

It should also be noted that in some collision report forms, investigating officers may code the driver condition as ‘distracted, inattentive,’ meaning there was a general lack of attention exhibited by the driver but there was no specific source of distraction identified.

To me, distracted and inattentive are two different things. Lumping them both together does not paint a true picture of the problem.

Collision data gathering can be a complicated task. In order to be reliable, it must be done promptly, carefully and thoroughly by investigators who gather as much data as possible, considered for accuracy and then reported in a consistent manner.

That was on the minds of the people who produced the TIRF report:

Fatality data from British Columbia from 2011 to 2015 were not available at the time that this fact sheet was prepared. As a result, Canadian data presented have been re-calculated to exclude this jurisdiction and make equitable comparisons.

This politely worded statement could mean many things. TIRF did not give adequate time between the request for data and the writing of the report. It takes more than 3 years for B.C. bean counters to determine a result. B.C. refused to share the data with TIRF. Worst of all, maybe B.C. really has no idea what that data is.

Our government chose to discontinue the requirement to report a collision to the police in July of 2008. Currently, ICBC claims personnel are the only ones in a position to gather the majority of collision data.

If we can’t share data with TIRF, can we be sure that what we are being told about the impact of distracted driving is true?

No doubt it is taking place as the police issued about 43,000 tickets for using electronic devices while driving last year and we know that the consequences of doing so can be terrible, but how many of the 960 collisions that happen each day in B.C. can be blamed on driver distraction?

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

www.drivesmartbc.ca

#DriveSmartBC: A Different Approach to School Zone Safety

Seven years ago I wrote about a safe trip to school, commenting on my experience that a significant part of the safety problem was caused by teachers and parents themselves. Their driving behaviour as they showed up to work or dropped off their children sometimes left a lot to be desired. Did they not realize that they were creating their own problem?

At that time, the only solution that I had to offer was the walking school bus. This is where parents take turns walking the neighbourhood group of children to school. Everyone benefits from the exercise, the children are safer and traffic congestion at the school is reduced.

We know that there’s a problem, but how do we deal with it? The City of Toronto is trying an Active and Safe Routes to School pilot project as a part of their Vision Zero Road Safety Plan. This will see areas around schools being designated as Community Safety Zones.

These zones will see painted crosswalks, active speed reader signs. increased enforcement and higher penalties.

Of the four, the only one that I know for sure results in a measurable effect is the speed reader sign. It’s always there and working.

Do the police have the resources to maintain an enforcement level necessary to result in a lasting level of compliance? Would we accept automated enforcement in school zones? The current political climate in B.C. seems to indicate that it is possible, but as yet nothing has been implemented.

Vienna Austria, Bolzano Italy and Haddington Scotland have taken a different approach. They have decided to exclude motor vehicle traffic around primary schools. Vienna’s closure is at the start of the school day, with Bolzano and Haddington at the beginning, lunch hour and end of the day.

These are pilot projects for Vienna and Haddington, but Bolzano has had this program in place for 21 years. Bolzano found that traffic jams are reduced and safety has increased, reducing the collision rate by half, resulting in about 45% of students walking to school.

Traffic calming measures lie somewhere in between. Here are some examples from the Netherlands. The use of signs, coloured pavement, marked crosswalks and chicanes are markedly different from what is found here in B.C.

ICBC says that every year, 380 children are injured in crashes while walking or cycling and six are killed throughout the province. In school and playground zones, 86 children are injured. Read their full press release.

September is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. #EyesForwardBC #DriveSmartBC

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RoadSafety: No One Will Solve My Problem

What happened the last time that you decided to deal with a road safety problem? Were you successful in your quest? Were your views taken “for information purposes?” Did you get sucked into the whirlpool of “that’s not my job” or worse still, ignored completely?

As taxpayers, we expect the appropriate level of government or the police to solve them for us. This is one of their jobs and we pay them to do that. How would you rate their service in this regard and why do you rate it that way?

For the most part, if the situation is an emergency, it receives high priority for attention and resolution. A washed out highway or a serious collision will be dealt with immediately by the appropriate resources.

A dangerous driver or malfunctioning traffic signal may receive slightly less attention depending on the level of concern, location and resources available.

But what happens when you have a complaint about a nuisance or a potential problem? If you are lucky, it will be responded to within a reasonable amount of time. If not, your wishes could either be ignored or even actively discouraged. What to do?

DriveSmartBC is sometimes asked for help when this doesn’t happen.

Thinking that I could provide a resource, I created a Self Help topic in the discussion forum. Over the 7 years that it has existed very little has been discussed.

Perhaps an example might be useful to guide others, so I resolved to make a special effort to involve myself and document it in Self Help.

The opportunity came from Kelowna. The gentleman that contacted me lived in a gated community that was accessed from a busy road. He felt that a left turn lane was needed to allow for safe turns into the community but the City of Kelowna felt otherwise.

I began e-mail correspondence with him to define the problem, find a suitable solution and promote it for resolution.

It quickly became apparent that the perception of the problem was the speed of vehicles on the road and the only solution that he would consider was the turn lane.

After a half dozen volleys, he decided that I wasn’t on his side and that he would look elsewhere for a solution.

The other side of this coin is a community action group in the Hillside-Quadra area of Victoria. Not only do they react to problems, they actively consider pending changes to their community and provide considered feedback to city council in an effort to positively influence those changes.

This is a very good example of what a community can do, both to solve and prevent road safety problems.

Like anything else in life, you need to look at your particular road safety issue and decide whether you want to deal with it and how much time and effort you want to invest.

If the problem is not that important to you, then report and forget is probably the appropriate choice.

If you do decide to take action, there is no shortage of information to use to advantage today. A bit of time with your favourite search engine may find an issue exactly like yours, what was done to solve it and maybe even contact information for those involved. Reach out and ask for help.

Now persist in your quest. Learn about the issue. Document your observations. Enlist others. Contact authorities, write letters to the editor, blog, post on social media. Be thoughtful and reasonable. Respect others.

It may seem like water wearing away stone, but you can make a difference if you really want to.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

Affordable auto insurance can happen

ST. JOHN’SJune 11, 2018 /CNW/ – Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay too much for auto insurance. In fact, you pay the highest premiums in Atlantic Canada—on average 40% higher. It’s been 14 years since the last review—reforms must be made to bring back a sustainable system that works for drivers.

Newfoundland and Labrador needs:

  • An auto insurance system that provides quick, medically sound rehabilitative care.
  • More choices when it comes to where you buy auto insurance.
  • An auto insurance industry that makes it affordable for uninsured drivers to get insured.
  • Cost-control measures to stabilize the rising average cost of auto insurance claims.

The insurance industry can’t make these changes alone. We need to work together—industry, government, policyholders, and stakeholders—to unite and work together to do whatever is necessary to deliver the best system for our drivers.

It’s time to make the auto insurance system work for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

For further information: Steve Kee, Director, Media and Digital Communications, 416-362-2031 ext. 4387

http://www.ibc.ca

Organization Profile

#RoadSafety: Little Things Can Make Big Differences

ExclamationI’ve been riding as a passenger in heavy traffic this past week and have had time to watch and think about what is going on around me. There are many small things that a driver should do out of habit to minimize their chances of being involved in a collision.

In no particular order of importance, here are my suggestions.

Signal! The bulbs are good for more than 3 or 4 blinks too. Nothing tells others what you would like to do better than a well used signal light lever. There are polite drivers out there who will actually see your signal and help you accomplish what you want to do.

When you stop in traffic, you should see pavement between the front edge of your hood and the bottoms of the back tires of the vehicle in front of you. If you don’t, you are too close.

The extra space may prevent you from being pushed into the vehicle in front of you if your vehicle is hit from behind. It also gives you room to move if an emergency vehicle approaches.

Stop before the sidewalk when you are entering a street, not on top of it. Pedestrians really appreciate your consideration.

Maintain an appropriate following distance for the conditions. When you do this, you control your own safety margin and to some extent that of the driver behind you. They will have more time to realize that something is happening and can then avoid colliding with you.

Leave yourself an out, especially around heavy commercial vehicles. Having a space to move into on your left or right if something happens may mean avoiding a crash.

Use some lane discipline. You are entitled to one lane and have to stay between the lines of that lane.

If you don’t know where you are going, stop and figure it out. Better still, plan before you leave. If you don’t have GPS in your vehicle, cell phone or tablet, the internet is full of useful resources.

Don’t commit random acts of driving by ignoring traffic controls when you decide you’ve chosen incorrectly.

Remember that there are drivers behind you that will become impatient and try to pass by. Pull over, stop, let them by and then continue at reduced speed as you try to locate the address you are trying to find.

Scan around and well ahead of your vehicle. Preparation is preferrable to surprise.

Early detection of obstructions ahead allow you to plan to avoid them rather than react in a place where you may not have a choice.

Anticipate the traffic lights. Braking lightly and coasting to a stop saves wear and tear on your vehicle. Aside from being safer, it also saves you money on maintenance and fuel.

Screaming up to the red light and braking heavily at the last second invites the driver behind you to join you in a collision, especially if they are not paying attention or are momentarily focused elsewhere.

If another driver insists on infringing on your right of way, let them have it. It’s better to maintain as much control of the situation as you are able to rather than insist on being part of the incident.

None of these things are difficult to do and are simple habits to develop. The choice to be safe is always yours.

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