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

8 out of 10 Canadians say they witness distracted driving regularly

Many things can distract drivers behind the wheel – smartphones, other passengers, eating while driving or in-car touch screens– but as the latest Desjardins survey released today indicates, these obvious dangers, especially related to personal smartphone use, are still not clearly being recognized by many Canadian drivers.

Canadians know distracted driving is a big risk factor on the road. While 8 in 10 respondents (79%) say they regularly see other drivers using a smartphone behind the wheel, only 38 percent admit to having driven distracted at least once. A further 21% admitted to using their phone while driving within the past year.

Smartphone-related distracted driving is more pronounced with younger drivers. Eleven percent of drivers aged 16-24 admit to driving while using their smartphone on a regular basis, twice the national average (5%).

When asked what drivers use their smartphone for while driving, one-third point to GPS apps as the primary reason. Here too, however, younger drivers are more likely to reach for the phone, with 45% of drivers aged 16-24 using GPS apps compared to only 22% of the 55-74 age group. Non-smartphone distractions include: the external environment (51%), focusing on passengers or children in the vehicle (35%), changing settings on the vehicle’s entertainment system (35%) and eating or drinking (31%).

Changing Behaviours
Overall, Canadians ranked distracted driving as the second largest risk factor when they take to the road, behind alcohol impaired driving. So, what will change distracted driver behaviour?

The survey found that the biggest deterrent were consequences related to getting caught using a smartphone behind the wheel. Fifty-five percent are most concerned about fines and the potential for higher insurance rates. While 37 percent of drivers stated that getting into a motor-vehicle collision would make them more likely to stop driving distracted.

While drivers fear the financial consequences of distracted driving, a strong majority (68%) say that current laws are not effective enough in deterring distracted driving.

“Canadians know that distracted driving is a risk factor on the road. But we need to send the message that it’s an extremely dangerous behaviour that puts you, your passengers and every road user at risk” said Denis Dubois, President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group. “It’s why we launched this campaign to generate awareness and educate drivers to stop this dangerous activity. It’s also why we work closely with road safety partners like the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and Parachute to push this issue forward. Because one injury or fatality on our roads is one too many.”

“We know that changing driver behaviour is a key component of Vision Zero, the road safety movement with the goal of eliminating serious injuries and deaths from motor vehicle collisions,” said Steve Podborski, President and CEO of Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention. “These deaths are not the result of ‘accidents’ but due to preventable and predictable events. Through education, changing how we build our cars and roads, and through enforcement, we can create safer travel for all Canadians.”

“Despite continued declines in fatalities due to road crashes in the past decade, deaths involving distracted driving have increased. Distraction was a factor in 1 in 4 fatalities in 2015”, said Robyn Robertson, President & CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. “Through our partnership with Desjardins, we are able to track data and trends to raise awareness among Canadians”.

Partners with a Common Goal
Desjardins works closely with national partners, like the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and Parachute, to better inform Canadians about the risks of the road. Desjardins is proud to share two additional resources that will help combat distracted driving:

Distraction-Related Fatal Collisions, 2000-2015
A new fact sheet from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation that examines the magnitude and trends in the role of driver distraction in motor vehicle fatalities in Canada.

Distracted Driving: Changing the Culture Discussion Panel
An engaging and interactive discussion panel from Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention. The panel will gather key stakeholders to discuss how Vision Zero can be best applied to distracted driving.

About the Survey
The online survey, conducted in March, 2018, polled 3,020 people across Canada.

About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the fifth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of $290.1 billion. It has been rated one of the Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Counted among the world’s strongest banks according to The Banker magazine, Desjardins has one of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.

SOURCE Desjardins Group

#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

Read more

Over 45,000 British Columbians jump to challenge & take the Drive Smart Refresher Test

August 3, 2018

In less than three weeks, over 45,000 British Columbians logged on to check their driving knowledge through ICBC’s Drive Smart Refresher Test, and the results show that we could use some improvement. If the refresher test were treated like the knowledge test which requires a minimum score of 80 per cent to obtain a learner’s licence, over 18,000 (40 per cent) would have failed.

Based on the completed tests, drivers had the most difficulty with what to do around emergency vehicles, minimum following distances, and the meaning of road signs.

Interestingly, questions related to texting while driving had near-perfect scores, yet over 34,000 drivers were ticketed for using an electronic device in 2017.*

“What’s just as important as knowing the rules of the road is putting them into practice whenever you drive,” said ICBC’s interim vice-president responsible for road safety, Lindsay Matthews. “No matter how many years of experience you have under your belt, we can all benefit from shedding bad driving habits and refreshing our knowledge.”

Here are some of the top questions that were answered incorrectly:

  • When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on highways with speed limits of under 80 km/h, in addition to changing lanes, drivers must slow to: 40 km/h
  • When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on highways with speed limits of 80 km/h or over, in addition to changing lanes, drivers must slow to: 70 km/h.
  • The minimum following distance when behind a large vehicle or a motorcycle on a high speed road, should be: 3 seconds.
  • The minimum following distance in bad weather or slippery conditions on high speed roads, should be: 4 seconds.
  • Drivers are required to yield to a public transit bus that is signaling to enter traffic: on all roads where the speed limit is 60km/h or lower.​

  • This sign means: school crosswalk, yield to pedestrians; if there is a crossing guard follow directions.

  • ​This sign, without a speed tab below, means: school zone – reduce speed when children are present.
 
 
 
  • This sign means: obstruction – keep left.

The number of crashes in B.C. peaked in 2017, with 350,000 crashes happening in the year, or 960 a day. The total cost of claims in 2017 was $4.8 billion, equivalent to $13 million a day.

Drivers are encouraged to take the Drive Smart Refresher test at icbc.com/drivesmart. Other resources to help improve driving knowledge, such as driving guides, and a road signs practice test, are available on icbc.com.

*Based on 2017 data, as reported by police.

Think a police officer can’t tell if you’re driving stoned? Think again!

Think a police officer can’t tell if you’re driving stoned? Think again!

August’s Traffic Safety Spotlight focuses on impaired driving

“I drive better when I’m high!”

“They’ll never catch me!”

“Pffft. That will never hold up in court!”

Sound familiar? There are plenty of misconceptions floating around regarding marijuana use and driving. The truth is that it’s illegal and will continue to be illegal in Saskatchewan to drive while impaired – whether by drugs or alcohol – even once marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018.

Think about it: people don’t smoke marijuana so they can feel the exact same. It is an impairing substance that alters your perception – and it increases your chances of being in a crash.

“To put it simply, impaired is impaired,” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “Any substance that alters your thinking will impact your ability to drive safely. If you smoke marijuana, you should not get behind the wheel until you’re sure the effects have fully worn off.”

Smoking marijuana affects judgment, reaction time, motor coordination and ability to make decisions. It can also cause paranoia, drowsiness, distorted perception and a sense of disorientation – all of which could cause you to lose control at the wheel. Mixing drugs and alcohol increases impairment even more.

If you think police won’t be able to tell if you’re driving while high, think again. Weaving within a lane, following a vehicle too closely, making unsafe turns – these can all be indications that a driver is high. Marijuana can also be detected by odor and by the driver’s physical appearance – including dilated pupils, poor balance and co-ordination.

If the police suspect that a driver is impaired by a drug or alcohol or a combination of both, they can make a demand that the driver take a standardized field sobriety test at roadside. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired by a drug, they can make a demand that the driver submit to an evaluation conducted by a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE).

“Drug Recognition Evaluators undergo extensive training and use a rigorous, scientific 12-step procedure in performing the evaluation,” said Cpl. Brian Ferguson, Provincial DRE Training Coordinator. “The evaluation must show impairment, signs and symptoms consistent with one or more drug categories, and the evaluator’s findings must be supported by the toxicology.”

More and more police in Saskatchewan are being trained to recognize signs of impairment from drugs. There are currently 74 DRE-certified officers in the province, with 20 to 40 new officers trained each year.

But will these tests hold up in court? Absolutely. Drug recognition evaluations have been accepted by Canadian courts as legally binding evidence in impaired driving cases for many years.

So, don’t drive high. It’s not worth it and you’re going to get caught. Impaired drivers in Saskatchewan face some of the toughest administrative sanctions in the country, with immediate licence suspensions and vehicle seizures at roadside. Upon conviction, further penalties imposed by the courts may include fines, jail time and long-term driving restrictions.

Follow these tips to keep you and yours safe:

  • Be a Good Wingman – don’t let impaired friends drive.
  • Don’t drive high – weed increases your chances of getting into a collision and when combined with alcohol, impairment increases significantly.
  • Plan a safe ride home – impaired driving is 100% preventable.
  • Remember – it is illegal to operate any kind of motor vehicle while impaired by any substance. Police are trained to check for and recognize drug impairment.Hashtag alert! A ticket you’ll WANT to getWhile police will be looking for impaired drivers throughout August, some will also be handing out “positive tickets” to drivers who aren’t impaired. Any driver who receives one can post a picture of it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #CareAboutImpaired to be eligible to win one of 25 $150 Visa gift cards. This is one of five new impaired driving initiatives being piloted in Saskatchewan this month. #HowAreYouGettingHomeOur friends at MADD Canada are partnering with a number of organizations to raise awareness over the August long weekend on the dangers of impaired driving. You can be a part of the conversation by following @Sask0804 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtag #HowAreYouGettingHome.

And, since you’re online anyway, visit SGI’s website at www.sgi.sk.ca for more information about impaired driving consequences. Follow SGI on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for safety tips to #TakeCareOutThere.

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