Colleen Schmidt, Supervisor | CTV News Calgary
A report from a Canadian Insurance company says crashes tied to inattentiveness behind the wheel are increasing and Alberta has the highest number of distracted driving related accident claims in the country.
Aviva Canada collected data from its clients’ crashes between 2016 and 2018 and says Alberta showed a 58 percent increase in claims related to distracted driving, which is more than double the Canadian average of 23 percent.
“So we’ve seen a shocking statistic in Alberta,” said Phil Gibson, Chief Underwriting Officer, Aviva Insurance. “We took all the claims that are frequently associated with distracted driving, so rear end without skid marks that hit a stationary object, drifting across lanes and hitting something, failure to obey a stop sign, those types of things, and we’ve extrapolated that there is distracted driving going on within there.”
Gibson says 95 percent of Canadians say texting and driving by others makes them feel unsafe on the roads.
“That’s another terrible statistic. We should feel safe and certain and know that when we’re going down the road that other Canadians are looking out for each other,” he said.
Police say it takes more than enforcement to get the message across.
“People need to come to the realization that distracted driving causes all the damage, all the lives lost and all the hurt in society that impaired driving causes. The two equate to each other just like that and even though distracted driving is newer ,if you will ,than impaired driving it causes all the catastrophe that impaired driving does,” said CPS Sgt. Dale Seddon.
Dean Lorenson started taking a bigger interest in distracted driving after he was involved in a crash.
“I think it was a Ford F-150, was just kind of rolling through and knocked me over,” he said.
Lorenson counts the number of distracted driving related tickets that are written by Calgary police and even involved his son’s Grade 3 class to help keep track.
The students counted 430 instances of distracted driving in a single month and Lorenson says people are making things worse by trying to hide the fact that they are looking at their phones while they drive.
“Actually that makes it worse because you’re really not paying attention. If your phone is up here, while you’re driving, you might be able to see but if you’re trying to hide it and looking down here, that just makes the problem worse,” he said.
Checking phones while driving or even when stopped at a traffic light is illegal and despite awareness campaigns, fines and do-not-disturb technology, it’s a behaviour that has proven challenging to change.
“I don’t think it’s going to take more laws or even technology. I think we can start influencing each other when we think about what an awesome responsibility it is driving a car and keeping each other safe to just stop allowing yourself to be distracted,” said Gibson.
The insurance company suggests planning ahead, prepping podcasts and playlists or locking away your phone.