Distracted driving is a trend on the rise

Canada Safety Council

It’s a scene that is far too familiar on roads across Canada: a cell phone sounds an alert, the driver reaches for the phone, and in the short time it takes to read the screen, a collision has occurred.

Distracted driving is a trend on the rise, a dangerous and life-threatening behaviour that must be stopped. To mark this year’s National Safe Driving Week, the Canada Safety Council and the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) share a crucial message: distraction behind the wheel is entirely preventable. Just don’t do it.

The Statistics

Distracted driving statistics are understated because distraction isn’t always easy to prove. In fatal accidents where distraction was a possible factor, there may not be evidence of phone usage or, sadly, a living witness to tell the story. This has resulted in a significant underreporting of the issue – still, the data currently available reveals staggering numbers.

According to Transport Canada, distraction was a contributing factor in 21 per cent of fatal collisions and 27 per cent of collisions resulting in serious injury in 2016. Comparatively, those numbers were reported at 16 and 22 per cent, respectively, in 2006.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators (CCMTA) provides further context to these numbers: 1.7 per cent of fatal collisions and 1.9 per cent of collisions resulting in serious injury involved electronic communication devices between 2010–14. While more recent statistics are not available, the prevalence of mobile devices in today’s society makes it a reasonable assumption that these numbers, too, are on the rise.

And if you’re fortunate enough to avoid injury or fatality, you’ll still be subject to fines and potentially demerit points depending on your province. Refer to this chart by the Canadian Automobile Association for a detailed breakdown.

To further compound the financial costs, your auto insurance premiums could sharply increase if you’re found to have been operating a vehicle while distracted.

“Insurance is all about risk, and distracted driving is an extremely risky behavior,” said Peter Braid, Chief Executive Officer of IBAC. “That’s why insurance brokers are partnering with the Canada Safety Council to raise awareness of the danger and encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road. The stakes are high – death, injury, property damage, fines and rising insurance premiums. Whatever the distraction, it’s not worth the risk.”

 

text notification bubble with ellipsis looking like traffic light

The challenge

The challenge in addressing this issue is cognitive dissonance and, where distracted driving is concerned, willingly engaging in behaviours that are known to contribute to the likelihood of collisions. Studies in provinces across Canada have borne out the same result: a majority of drivers understand that distracted driving is dangerous and illegal; yet, the same respondents report using their devices behind the wheel anyway.

“Personal accountability is a major component of society’s role in reducing distracted driving deaths,” said Gareth Jones, president of the Canada Safety Council. “If you’re in the majority of road users who understand the risks, you owe it to your family and to fellow road users to put the phone away and otherwise minimize distractions.  It’s a choice that each of us has completely within our control.  Building a culture of safe driving happens one person and one decision at a time, so let’s choose well.”

 

Other types of distraction

While the topic of distracted driving is often discussed in the context of texting and calling behind the wheel, other forms of distraction exist and can also be harmful. Distracted driving is characterized as any action that removes your focus from the road. This can include eating, adjusting music, heat or GPS, applying makeup and interacting with passengers in the vehicle.

 

Tips to avoid distraction behind the wheel

  • Put your phone on silent or on Do Not Disturb mode. You won’t be tempted by an alert you don’t hear.
  • Even better, use an app or a built-in function that activates a Do Not Disturb feature automatically when connected to your vehicle’s Bluetooth or when increased speed is detected. See the enclosed tip sheet for examples.
  • Out of sight, out of mind – put your phone in a glove compartment, a zipped purse or knapsack, or even the back seat.
  • Make sure to leave enough time in your schedule to eat and groom before getting in the car.
  • Ensure that your temperature, music and GPS are set before you leave.
  • If it’s really that important, pull over.

Above all else, remember that driving is a potentially deadly task that requires your full attention. You wouldn’t take a call while operating a bulldozer; why do the same with a vehicle capable of going at much higher speeds?

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ICBC: a crash occurs every three minutes over the holidays

ICBC: a crash occurs every three minutes over the holidays

The holidays are here and many drivers will be traveling to visit family and friends to celebrate. With increased traffic and unpredictable road conditions, it’s important for everyone to be prepared and drive smart.

Over the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, 530 people are injured and two people are killed in 2,000 crashes every year in B.C.* That’s one crash every three minutes.

Here are ICBC’s tips to get home safe this holiday season:

  • Check your vehicle. Many B.C. highways require winter tires, labelled with either the mountain/snowflake symbol or the mud and snow (M+S) designation. Top up wiper fluid for clearer visibility and pack an emergency kit including blanket, food and water.

  • Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal conditions only. It takes more time and distance to come to a complete stop on wet, icy or snowy roads. Adjust your speed to the conditions and always maintain a safe travelling distance between vehicles.

  • Avoid distraction. Make important calls and program your GPS before you begin driving and let your family and friends know you’re not available while driving. If you’re on a longer drive, use highway rest stops to take a break and check your messages.

  • Take a break. Pull over as soon as you start to feel drowsy. Get out and walk around to get some fresh air. If that’s not enough, pull over to a safe area, turn off your car and take a nap.

  • Plan for a safe ride home. If your holiday festivities involve alcohol, plan ahead for a safe ride home: arrange a designated driver, call a taxi, take transit or use Operation Red Nose where available. There’s no excuse to drink and drive.

Christmas holiday statistics:*

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, one person is killed and 350 people are injured in 1,300 crashes in B.C. every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 260 people are injured in 810 crashes in the Lower Mainland every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 69 people are injured in 340 crashes on Vancouver Island every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 45 people are injured in 180 crashes in the Southern Interior every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 15 people are injured in 87 crashes in the North Central region every year.

New Year’s statistics:*

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, one person is killed and 180 people are injured in 700 crashes in B.C.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 130 people are injured in 470 crashes in the Lower Mainland.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 17 people are injured in 78 crashes on Vancouver Island.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 15 people are injured in 95 crashes in the Southern Interior.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, nine people are injured in 48 crashes in the North Central region.

*Christmas is defined as 18:00 hours December 24 to midnight December 26. New Year’s is defined as 18:00 hours December 31st of the previous year to midnight January 1 of the New Year. ICBC data for injury and crashes based on five year average (2014 to 2018); police data for fatalities based on five year average (2013 to 2017).

What I’ve Learned from a Year of Driver Monitoring

I’ve been driving with eDriving’s Mentor app for about a year now and know that it has made improvements in my skills. I haven’t cracked the top 10% barrier yet, but I’m still trying! The secret to having a high score appears to be trying to anticipate and plan for what is happening around you as you drive.

Speed is the simplest of the driving tasks to follow but does present its challenges. The riskiest of them is the tendency for other drivers to crowd your back bumper. Why some drivers feel the need to do this on multi laned highways is a bit of a mystery to me.

I wonder if telematics can use the automatic emergency braking system on newer cars to monitor this?

Sudden braking incidents can be prevented by maintaining an appropriate following distance and watching the status of traffic lights as you approach the intersection.

Is it a stale green light? Preparing for the stop doesn’t cost you anything as you are going to have to stop anyway. In fact, it can save you money in the long run by reducing wear on the brakes.

Drivers who fill in your front safety margin and then brake to get ready for a turn or make another lane change mean keeping an eye out behind and beside you as you drive. It would be helpful if they thought about signaling their intentions but the majority seem to signal as they move.

Heavy acceleration has not caused any black marks for me since the first one. I’m never in a hurry to be the first vehicle into an intersection after the lights change and I have not had to take evasive action to prevent a collision, yet.

Smooth lane changes are an easy score. Plan ahead, mirror, signal, shoulder check and change. Simple. Again, I’ve never had to make a sudden move because of the actions of another driver, yet.

The last behaviour that the app watches for are sharp turns. Experience, advisory signs and familiarity with your vehicle are a great help with this. When in doubt, too slow is better than too fast.

I’ve mentioned a potential reduction in vehicle maintenance already but there is another way the app helps pay it’s way. Driving for a good score is also driving for economy. Fewer dollars spent on fuel are healthy for both your wallet and the environment.

There is no doubt in my mind that ICBC will eventually be using driver telematics to set insurance rates. Practice now will make it easier to save money on my insurance bill in the future.

Mentor also supplies me with video training tailored to my driving habits. I’m a bit behind in watching the videos, but I’ve both learned something new and reinforced prior knowledge with them.

Overall, I’m pleased that I have taken the time to use the app. I think that it has made me a better and hopefully safer driver.

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DriveSafeBC: Is It Safe to Open Your Door?

Open Car DoorImagine the surprise of the motorist at a collision I once investigated. He parked at the side of the road, opened his door, and a passing car tried to tear it off! It’s a good thing he didn’t step out while he opened the door.

What went wrong here? The motorist didn’t look first, or didn’t see what was overtaking him. He probably felt safe in the fact that he had stopped close to the curb and was out of harm’s way.

In the case of a driver or front seat passenger, there is a mirror present to help see if anything is overtaking the vehicle before you open the door. A quick shoulder check is also a good preventative measure to turn into a habit.

For back seat passengers the rear roof pillar and lack of a mirror can make this task almost impossible.

The Dutch Reach is the best solution for all vehicle occupants use. Open the door with the hand that is on the opposite side of your body from it. This forces your body to rotate toward the door and allows you to look backward through the gap before the door opens very far. If something is there, hopefully there is enough room to avoid a crash.

Today’s highways are no longer designed so that traffic is always on the left side of a parked vehicle. Be cautious of cycle lanes that may be on the right side of parking areas.

Failing to look or see when you open your door poses a significant threat to cyclists often referred to as dooring or being doored. They must use the right hand edge of the roadway and are difficult to see because of their size. The cyclist that slams into an opening car door can be seriously injured.

Cycle lanes designed without a buffer do not eliminate the hazard.

Opening a door from the outside can be a problem as well. It is not uncommon to see a driver walk up to their vehicle and open the door to enter without giving any thought to overtaking traffic. Passing vehicles may be forced to move to the left or stop in order to avoid a collision.

Section 203 of the Motor Vehicle Act forbids opening the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so. Once a door on that side is open, it must not be left open for longer than is required to load or unload passengers.

ICBC provides Drive Smart tips for holiday shopping season

ICBC provides Drive Smart tips for holiday shopping season

As the holiday shopping season officially kicks off this week, ICBC is asking drivers to prioritize safety over finding the perfect parking spot. Last year, there were about 96,000 crashes that happened in parking lots.*

ICBC receives hundreds of thousands of claims every year, with vehicle damage costs totaling $1.33 billion in 2018 alone.

While some may believe that driving in parking lots is ‘safer’ than highway driving, parking lots present drivers with other challenges such as increased congestion and heavy pedestrian activity. The holiday season could add a layer of distraction with people apt to be more preoccupied with their shopping list or finding a parking spot.

Drivers are encouraged to apply a bit of holiday cheer, be courteous and have a bit more patience during this time of year with these Drive Smart tips from ICBC:

  • The rules of the road still apply, even on private property where the public is invited to park. Don’t use your phone while driving, even in parking lots. Program your navigation or holiday tunes before you put your car in gear.
  • Have your car facing out in your parking spot: This position is safest for drivers because it helps you avoid the risk of reversing into a lane with potential blind spots when leaving.
  • Park further away, if you can: Instead of circling endlessly to get a spot that’s closest to the mall entrance, pick a spot that’s further away. You’ll avoid a high-traffic area where you’re more likely to crash with another vehicle or hit a pedestrian.
  • Slow down and be on alert: Drivers should drive slowly in parking lots to have enough time to react to an unexpected vehicle backing out of their parking spot or an unanticipated pedestrian, especially young children, who may be harder to see.
  • Pay attention to the arrows and stop signs: Many parking lots are quite narrow, restricting certain lanes to a single direction. Pay attention to the signs and markings on the road to avoid getting into a crash.
  • Don’t block traffic: Deciding to follow a shopper, then waiting for them to load their car, buckle up and leave, jams up traffic behind you and likely takes you much longer than if you had just found a spot further away. Sitting idle in a lane can leave you vulnerable to a collision, and you could be blocking other drivers who are trying to leave.
  • Let it go: No sense in having a showdown with another driver for a parking spot. Move along, and maybe that good karma will net you something really nice this season.

Statistics

  • About 96,000 crashes occurred in parking lots in 2018. About 4,300 resulted in casualties and 92,000 resulted in damages only.

  • 480 pedestrians were injured in parking lot collisions last year.
  • There were 4,000 reported instances of theft from a vehicle in a parking lot last year

Shopping bag giveaway

As always, ICBC reminds all shoppers to keep their belongings with them or out of sight in their vehicle.

ICBC will be talking to customers about driving safely and handing out a limited quantity of large, reusable shopping bags at the following locations:

  • Highstreet Mall, Abbotsford: Friday, November 29th from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ICBC and Police will be handing out bags in the Central Plaza.
  • Pacific Centre, Vancouver: Saturday, November 30th from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or until supplies last. Look for volunteers from West End Coal Harbour Community Policing and Granville Community Policing Centres with ICBC, handing out bags at the Easy Park Parking Lot.
  • Coquitlam Centre Mall, Coquitlam: Saturday, December 6th from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ICBC and RCMP will be handing out bags near the food court.
  • Pine Centre Mall, Prince George: Thursday, December 12 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ICBC and Operation Red Nose’s mascot, Rudy the reindeer, will be handing out bags at the main entrance.

* 2018 vehicle claims data. Rounded to the nearest thousand.

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