Eating and drinking, smoking, adjusting the radio or interacting with passengers can all divert a driver’s attention from the road. Nearly everyone has a story about a driver he or she saw blithely applying makeup or even reading the newspaper while piloting a 1,200-kilogram vehicle down the highway at 100 kph.
There’s no mystery regarding the definition of “distracted driving” – it is simply anything that causes an automobile operator to take his or her full attention away from the operation of the vehicle, even for just a moment.
Distractions generally fall into one of three categories:
- Visual – Anything that causes the driver to avert his or her eyes from the road. Research suggests that use of an electronic device while driving reduces the ability to process more than half the visual information in the driver’s environment.
- Manual – Anything that requires removing one (or, remarkable as it seems, both!) hands off the controls.
- Cognitive – Anything that diverts the driver’s thoughts away from what is happening while driving, both in the vehicle and on the road.
An activity is especially risky if it involves two or even all three forms of distraction. For example, composing and sending or reading a text message or email on one’s smartphone simultaneously creates visual, manual and cognitive distractions.
Mobile Phone Use – A Serious and Growing Concern
To those Canadians old enough to remember when there was no need to ask most callers “Where are you?”, the proliferation of mobile phones is nothing less than revolutionary. According to statistics firm Statista, in 2017 nearly 30 million Canadians owned mobile phones, more than half of which were smart devices capable of sending and receiving text and email messages.
Unfortunately, there is growing evidence of a strong correlation between the explosion in mobile (and especially smart) phone use and an increase in distracted driving deaths and injuries. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) has reported that more than 25% of automobile crash fatalities in B.C. Between 2011 and 2015 involved driver distraction.
The Government’s Response
By 2008, provincial and territorial authorities were convinced that strict limits on mobile phone use in autos were needed. As a result, all ten Canadian provinces and two of the three territories have adopted legislation.
British Columbia’s statute prohibits driving or operating a vehicle (which includes any time the driver is in control and on a highway, not just when the car is in motion) while using any handheld mobile phone, whether or not it is capable of transmitting or receiving text-based communications. It also defines “use” to include having a device in a position where it can be used, thereby making irrelevant any claim (truthful or not) that the device was switched off.
Other Tips for Attentive Driving
While mobile phones are the most common source of distraction, there are many others. The ICBC and the Canada Safety Council have some additional tips to help you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and mind on the road:
- Don’t navigate “on the fly”. Plan your route ahead of time and pull over to consult your GPS or a map if you become lost.
- Secure young children in child restraint devices and pets in a crate or with another type of other restraint.
- Shave, apply makeup and do your hair before you get in the car. Fifteen minutes less sleep in the morning is a small price to pay for allowing you to concentrate on the road.
- Even on a hands-free phone, an emotional conversation can be a source of distraction. Save difficult talks for another time.
- With their multimedia display screens, complex sound systems and various warning alarms, late model cars have more built-in distractions today than ever before. Familiarize yourself with all of these gadgets and make any necessary settings or adjustments before you set out, especially if you are in a rental or other unfamiliar vehicle.
British Columbia Auto Accident Lawyers
Even if you are completely attentive whenever you drive, other drivers can be less cautious. If you’re injured by a distracted driver, the team of lawyers at Diamond and Diamond is ready to help. Call our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations. Our team of personal injury lawyers represents clients throughout British Columbia.