It’s so tempting. Your phone pings with a notification or you get an alert on your smartwatch. You’re an experienced driver, there isn’t much traffic or you’re stopped at a red light and you can easily take a quick glance at the message. Maybe even reply to it, right? Wrong. Anything can and does happen in that instant that your eyes are not on the road.
We all know there’s a law against distracted driving. A first conviction includes a fine of up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day license suspension. For novice drivers (with an M1, M2, G1 or G2 class license) the suspension is 30 days.
The intent of the law is to deter drivers from distractions because distractions lead to serious injuries and death. Between 2017 and 2021, there were 79 fatal or major injury collisions in Ottawa related to distracted driving. That means 79 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, partners or friends whose lives were forever changed or lost. For this same five-year period, 50 per cent of the distracted driving collisions involved people aged 34 and younger.
Here's a less obvious risk factor for distracted driving – according to Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention, when kids see their parents and caregivers using phones while driving it increases the likelihood that the kids will text and drive when they grow up. You need to lead by example.
Your mobile device isn’t the only source of distraction. Eating or drinking and using your vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system can also divert your attention. Likewise, your most precious cargo, the children and pets onboard, can unintentionally take your attention away from driving.
Besides putting the phone out of reach, keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, here are some other tips to help you avoid distractions:
- Many Android phones have a driving mode that locks certain apps when the feature is turned on or will automatically turn on when you’re connected to your vehicle’s Bluetooth
- Similarly, iPhones have a driving mode that silences all incoming calls and notifications; the feature also allows you to set up a reply message letting people know you’re driving
- Smartwatches are also very distracting; check your smartwatch for driving or silencing modes or just don’t use it while driving
- Some map and navigation apps also have a mode that minimizes distractions
We are all vulnerable to distracting temptations, especially our phones and smartwatches. Eliminate distractions while you’re behind the wheel and avoid the costs of a distracted driving conviction and the personal tragedy of a fatal or major injury collision.