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Distracted driving: it’s more than just texting and driving

By Kevin Chan in Car Accidents on May 05, 2022

Distracted driving: it’s more than just texting and driving

How many times have you been driving next to someone on the 401 or another major Ontario highway who was looking down at a cell phone instead of paying attention to the road ahead? Drivers who allow themselves to be distracted or, worse yet, seek out distractions while sitting behind the wheel cause an inordinate number of car accidents that inflict serious injury and wrongful death on innocent motorists.  Distracted driving in Ontario is no joke.

What exactly is distracted driving in Canada?

Believe it or not, distracted driving could be classified as activities that may actually seem harmless to engage in, like eating or drinking, talking to a passenger or adjusting the radio. But the reality is, these activities are not harmless. These activities can take away your attention from driving safely, paying attention to the road and paying attention to other motorists around you. Distracted driving could be classified as:

  • text messaging
  • checking messages will stopped at a red light or stop sign
  • making phone calls on a handheld device
  • watching videos on a handheld device
  • taking videos on the handheld device
  • adjusting/programming car navigation systems.
  • listening to music that is excessively loud (i.e. at a volume that prevents the driver from fully focusing on driving)
  • eating or drinking
  • smoking (including vaping)
  • activities of personal hygiene (brushing teeth, applying make-up or hair product, flossing or shaving, etc)
  • speaking with passengers
  • looking at passengers
  • looking in the backseat
  • reaching int he backseat or
  • using a navigational app

Recently, a well known Canadian website Rates.ca came out with their fourth annual distracted driving survey in which, results were quite shocking. The survey revealed that 58% of Canadians admitted to distracted driving, while 43% of Canadian motorists admitted to using an electronic handheld device will driving. Canadians further admitted to using their handheld device to check their maps (while unmounted), checking their messages will stopped at a stop sign or red light and holding their phone while making a call. All of these actions are illegal in Ontario – and vary in terms of provincial defences, province to province. The end result of the survey was that no matter what the laws, no matter what the device, no matter what the distraction – distracted driving can lead to extremely devastating and fatal consequences. Distracted driving can also be costly, in terms of hefty fines as well as increased auto insurance premiums.

Shocking Statistcs

The 2022 survey done by Rates.ca reveals shocking statistics. The survey revealed that 83% of Canadians admitted to distracted driving. Other shocking statistics include

  • 58% of drivers say that distracted driving is dangerous and a threat, but they do it anyway
  • 67% of motorists in the survey admitted to eating or drinking coffee/water while driving
  • 50% of drivers admitted to looking at passengers while they had a conversation
  • 51% admitted reaching for an object
  • 24% admitted to checking messages on their smart phones will stopped at a traffic light or stop sign
  • 29% admitted to using map apps such as Google maps, or Apple maps
  • 11% admitted to texting while driving
  • 5% admitted to watching a video on your smart phone while driving
  • 4% admitted to taking smart phone videos while driving
  • shockingly, 17% of drivers admitted to using their devices to make a handheld phone call

In the province of Ontario, being caught doing these activities can mean being charged with distracted driving. Depending on the level of your licence and the number of previous times you have been convicted, a conviction of distracted driving can come with the penalty of a fine from $615 to $3,000, between 3-6 demerit points, and having your licence suspended for up to 30 days.

Additionally, it’s clear that there is a significant percentage of reported distracted driving activities which are not related to technology, for example it has recently been reported that:

  • 67% of drivers eat or drink while driving;
  • 58% of drivers interact (looking at or talking to) their passengers;
  • 51% of drivers reach for an object.

In the province of Ontario, these actions might not necessarily rise to the legal definition of distracted driving, but they can still result in a motorist being found guilty of other charges like careless or dangerous driving, depending on the situation. Penalties for these mean fines of up to $2,000, or jail time for causing bodily harm or death. 

Distracted driving leads to car accidents and lives lost

The activities that make up distracted driving can seem trivial and less dangerous than drinking alcohol or driving over the speed limit. However, reports have shown that distracted drivers are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a car accident. While this doesn’t make it Canada’s number one reason for car accidents (drinking and driving is still the most common cause of car accidents), distracted driving is a significant cause of accidents, with numbers of cases projected to exceed cases of impaired driving within years. 

From a fatality perspective, Rates.ca’s study referenced OPP data released in a recent city news article, advising that inattentive traffic related fatalities from 2020-21, while alcohol and drug related fatalities declined by 46% in the same timeframe.

Car accidents have serious consequences

The physical injury that people can experience as a result of being involved in a car accident cannot be overstated. Every year in Canada there are over 300,000 car accidents, resulting in over 100,000 bodily injuries. The kinds of injuries that can result from a car accident can mean long-term injury and disability, if not permanent disability:

  • traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • paraplegia (paralysis) and other spinal cord injuries
  • whiplash and other neck and serious back injuries
  • road rash and other scrapes and bruises from contact with the road
  • fractures and broken bones

The trauma of a car accident means that the psychological damage can be equally as devastating as the physical injuries, with many people experiencing situational anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their experience.  

The cost of Distracted Driving

The financial burden of experiencing a car accident is significant for both the driver responsible for the crash as well as the victim. There are costs connected to possible criminal charges and legal fees that need to be settled, as well as the costs required for physical recovery and restoring any property that is damaged in the car accident:

  • Hefty tickets and fines
  • Administrative and legal fees of retaining legal representation (a lawyer or law firm)
  • Costs of repairing a damaged vehicle or towing/removing a totalled vehicle
  • Costs of replacing a vehicle
  • Medical costs (including emergency surgeries and treatments, and medication)
  • Medical costs involved with rehabilitation (including medical devices and mobility aids)
  • Salary lost due to missed work

Preventing distracted driving

Distracted driving can be prevented simply, although it might be easy to stop doing activities that may have become second nature to some. It might mean a bit of inconvenience, but nothing should be more important than the safety of you, your passengers, and the people sharing the road with you:

  1. Stop texting while on the road: When travelling at 90km/h – an average speed on the highways – a car can travel the equivalent of the full length of a football field in 5 seconds. In the time it takes you to open a text message on a mobile device and read it, it’s impossible to predict where your car will be. 
  2. Save the snacks for later: Having food or drink in your mouth is another distraction for a driver. Hot drinks might cause you to use the wrong pedal and attempts to retrieve fallen food from under seats can lead to getting into a car accident.
  3. Finish getting dressed before leaving the house: It can be tempting to “maximize” the minutes waiting in rush hour by planning to finish putting on your make-up or fixing your hair while in the car, but it’s much safer if that’s all handled before getting behind the wheel of a car.
  4. Plan your route ahead of time: Whether you are using a car’s onboard GPS or an application on your mobile device, things can be planned in advance. Things can go wrong even with the best-made plans, of course, and for those last-minute adjustments, pull your car over to check where you’re going while your car is parked, before continuing on your way. 

Have you suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by a distracted driver?

While one can often assume that a careless or negligent driver was on a cell phone, distracted driving is not always easy to prove. We always advise our clients that obtaining cell phone data and call records in Ontario as a time-limited process. Many carriers discard cell phone data after three years, which then renders it unattainable. If you been injured by a distracted driver, it’s important that you speak to a Hamilton car accident lawyer sooner rather than later. Particular motions can be brought to ask Superior Court Judge to order the release of cell phone and smartphone data records if done in a timely fashion.

If you are the victim of a car accident that was the result of distracted driving, speak to our Hamilton car accident lawyers today. Call us no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the southern Ontario region at 905-333-8888tell. Alternatively, you can send us a confidential email through our website and one of our car accident lawyers will get back to you promptly.

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Thank you to Suman Dash and Rates.ca for contacting us regarding their updated survey.

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