Despite the laws and the statistics showing the danger of distracted driving, more than one third of Canadian motorists admit to using their cellphones while behind the wheel.
The word is not getting across, according to a poll released by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). In a new Road Safety Monitor report 36.3 percent of drivers in Canada say they have used their cellphones while driving. That figure has jumped almost 16 percent since 2001, when 20.5 percent of Canadian drivers admitted to using mobile devices while driving. The public opinion poll of 1,208 people was conducted last fall.
"Available research generally estimates that driver distraction is a factor in 20 to 30 percent of road crashes," says TIRF President and CEO Robyn Robertson, adding that the survey showed even more disturbing fact. "Self-reported data from our survey showed that over a quarter of all survey respondents had to brake or steer to avoid being in a collision because they were distracted by something inside or outside their vehicle in the last month."
The survey results show that while the number of drivers using mobile phones has gone up, their time spent on the phone has decreased. Over 65 percent of people who claimed to use their phones while driving say they used it for 10 minutes of less.
"In 2001, almost 20 percent of respondents who said they had used their cell phone had used it for more than 30 minutes the previous week," explains Robertson. "It is encouraging to see this shift and that drivers are becoming more conscientious about restricting cell phone use.
“Now we need to see increases in the number of people not using their phone at all while driving," she says. “Taking your eyes and attention off the road for even a few seconds can increase crash risk.”
TIRF is co-hosting the Driven to Distraction conference, along with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), on March 1 in Toronto. The conference will look at ways to better “fill these knowledge gaps with the help of enforcement, government, industry, and community groups.”
"Governments, industry and community groups have been very active in implementing a variety of educational, prevention and enforcement strategies,” says Robertson. “The upcoming conference is the perfect venue to bring together all parties and share their experiences on the implementation of strategies in the last five years."
Many countries around the world ban drivers from using mobile phones while a vehicle is in motion, unless they are using a hands-free device. In Canada, the ban applies to most of the country except in Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island.