In North America, distracted driving has become an epidemic.
Data from a Transport Canada study shows that almost 23 percent of motor vehicle fatalities were 15-24 year olds; distracted driving is a factor in approximately four million vehicle crashes in North America annually; and individuals using cell phones while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash or near-crash than drivers who are not distracted.
The U.S. Governors Safety Association (GHSA) offers 10 tips to avoid the distracted driving pitfall:
1. Turn it off and stow it. Turn your phone off or switch it to silent mode before you get in the car. Then stow it away so that it’s out of reach.
2. Spread the word. Record a message on your phone that tells callers you’re driving and will get back to them when you’re off the road, or sign up for a service that offers this feature.
3. Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
4. Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call or respond to a text for you.
5. X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It’s dangerous and against the law in most state. Even voice-to-text isn’t risk-free.
6. Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones in addition to texting.
7. Prepare. If using a GPS device, enter your destination before you start to drive. If you prefer a map or written directions, review them in advance. If you need help while driving, ask a passenger to assist you or pull over to a safe location to change your GPS or review your map/directions.
8. Secure your pets. Unsecured pets can be a big distraction in the car.
9. Mind the kids. Pull over to a safe place to address situations involving children in the car.
10. Focus on driving. Multi-tasking behind the wheel is dangerous. Refrain from eating, drinking, reading, grooming, smoking, and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes.
Earlier this month, high school students in 10 Canadian cities observed 2,866 distracted drivers in a one-hour period as part of Allstate Canada’s Just Drive Canada promotion.
Agents from the insurance company in six other cities observed another 1,091 distractions for the same one-hour period, bringing the total distractions observed to 3,957.
"Over the past three years, we've been working to show teens firsthand the kinds of distracted driving behaviors that are happening on our roads and to raise awareness about the dangers," says Saskia Matheson, spokesperson for Allstate Canada. "Today's tally reveals that drivers are still struggling, or maybe reluctant, to give up their distractions."
Distracted driving consists of visual, manual or cognitive distractions (i.e. mind off of the road). The most common distractions are often eating, talking to other passengers or changing the radio station.
According to a recent survey by Allstate Canada and Abacus data, 90 per cent of respondents admitted to driving with some kind of distraction behind the wheel, which increased from 75 per cent in a similar study done by Allstate in 2010.
"Our research indicates that almost all Canadian drivers (94 per cent) are aware of current distracted driving penalties, but only seven per cent say this would prevent them from driving distracted," says Matheson.